Thursday, March 30, 2023

Education 2.0 - Online, Face-to-face or Blended

When it comes to education, do you prefer online or face-to-face? This question has been debated for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to the forefront.  How should one consider the scope and reach of this opportunity? Is it merely the domain for profit and specialty schools or something much broader? Major research universities like Purdue, Penn State, and the University of Maryland have created online divisions offering comprehensive degree programs in recent years.  What insights do these schools have that others lack?  While not all classes can be taught online, many can, and even for those that cannot, is there a middle ground?

I remember Steve Balmer once said in a planning meeting that when traditional brick-and-mortar businesses meet the internet - the internet usually wins.  Will it be different in education ten years from now?  Let’s be honest; education is a business (the business of educating the next generation of leaders).  Virginia Tech, UVA, and George Mason offer “some” degree programs online, usually at the Master's level.  On the other hand, a university like Liberty offers most degree programs online. I understand the differences between the schools, but is there a right or wrong approach?  What is the middle ground?

The benefits of in-person learning include allowing students to interact with their peers and instructors in real-time (depending on class size). This is particularly valuable in science, engineering, and art, where hands-on learning may be essential. In-person education provides students with a structured environment, which can benefit those with difficulties managing their time and self-motivation. There are disadvantages to in-person learning, including time and location constraints, large classes, and the scheduling of classes.

In online learning, students can complete coursework at their own pace and according to their schedule. This flexibility benefits students with other commitments, such as work and family responsibilities. Online learning offers many courses and programs. Despite this, online learning can be isolating and provide a different level of interaction and engagement.

In addition to the pros and cons of online and in-person learning, it's important to consider the benefits of a blended approach.  The Harvard Extension offers various Associate, Bachelor, and Master's degrees online, but there is one significant difference - there is a campus requirement.  Harvard’s hybrid or blended approach combines online and in-person learning to create a more flexible and personalized educational experience. 

The concept of blended learning involves both online and face-to-face meetings. Students can complete courses online, allowing flexibility and personalized learning while receiving in-person instruction from their professors. This format is particularly useful for courses that require hands-on learning or group projects. As a result, commuting costs and time to campus can be reduced while allowing Universities to broaden their base and reach.

It is ultimately up to each student to determine the best method for learning for them. Online and in-person learning has advantages and disadvantages, but blended learning offers a solution combining the benefits of both. The flexibility and personalized learning provided by blended learning can make education more effective and engaging. 

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