ReportOut Vol 8
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  • Create Date January 18, 2021
  • Last Updated March 2, 2021

ReportOUT Volume #8

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:

  • Online education has not lived up to its potential, according to a new report, which said fully online course work contributes to socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps while failing to be more affordable than traditional courses.
  • Online education has failed to reduce costs and improve outcomes for students. Faculty, academic leaders, the public, and employers continue to perceive online degrees less favorably than traditional degrees.
  • Students in online education, and in particular underprepared and disadvantaged students, underperform and on average, experience poor outcomes. Gaps in educational attainment across socioeconomic groups are even larger in online than in traditional coursework.

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.

  • Online education is the fastest-growing segment of higher education and its growth is overrepresented in the for-profit sector;
  • Faculty and academic leaders, employers and the general public are skeptical about the quality and value of online education, which they view as inferior to face-to-face education;
  • Students in online education, particularly underprepared and disadvantaged students, underperform and on average experience poor outcomes;

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