There are clear advantages to online learning for both students and colleges: convenience, accessibility, cost and flexibility. But the challenges of online education have often been overlooked – especially for career and technical education where practical application and hands-on performance are central to learning. For the highly motivated, self-directed, self-disciplined student seeking knowledge in a specific domain, online education may work well. But this does not describe the overwhelming majority of undergraduates; for CTE students perhaps even less so. Online education is compelling because of its efficiency, scalability, and flexibility. But these are exactly the elements that make it susceptible to significant exploitation. This version of ReportOUT offers a critical perspective on the proliferation of online education.
Some general conclusions:
Continuing efforts to strengthen educational opportunities and learning outcomes for under-prepared students and to reduce the cost of offering high-quality experiences are critical. But the evidence is clear that much of the existing online coursework is moving this effort in the wrong direction. Students need access to education, which involves meaningful interaction with faculty and other students—not just exposure to materials that move them through a collection of information and exercises.