• October 25, 2014

Combating Myths About Distance Education

In addition to my day job as an academic librarian at Yale University, I have been teaching online courses for several library schools since 2002. I have taught courses on reference, online searching, children's literature, U.S. government documents (finding them, that is, not creating them), and book and library history—all on a part-time, adjunct basis. I've even taught a few online courses on writing or research skills for undergraduates.

I enjoy the work and feel confident that I have helped students become better readers, writers, future librarians, curators, and researchers. Yet every time I speak with faculty colleagues who have only taught what distance educators call "face to face" or "on ground" courses, I get the same bewildered responses: "I've never understood this whole online teaching thing" or "So do you teach via e-mail?" or "Is that like a correspondence course?"

Hidden beneath the surface of such seemingly innocuous comments and questions is a little jab, which, if put into words, would go something like this: "You're not a real college teacher, are you? If you were, you'd be interacting with students in a bricks-and-mortar classroom like I do."

No doubt that attitude owes, in part, to the bad press emanating from investigations into certain online "colleges" that have turned out to be little more than diploma mills. But the attitude also seems to be connected to the very idea of online teaching, as though no real college-level content could be delivered or absorbed without face-to-face interaction between teacher and students. That myopic notion even extends, in some cases, to administrators of the programs themselves: One department I have taught for at a big state university does not even acknowledge its online instructors as members of the faculty on its Web page. In the department's eyes, I am, like Pinocchio, not a "real boy."

I'll be the first to admit that online delivery of undergraduate or graduate course work is not always a wonderful teaching and learning experience for everyone. But then, neither is face-to-face delivery. The method of delivery itself is not ipso facto a blessing or a curse. That's because any classroom, whether it's the face-to-face, online-only, or hybrid variety, is only as good as the people in it. If both teachers and students are prepared, responsive, and engaged, things run remarkably well. But if the instructor is teaching at too low or too high a level, or if the students are underprepared for the work—or, heaven forbid, if both are the case—problems will arise whether the course is face-to-face or online.

That said, online education does have its particular challenges. That's why there's no guarantee that a great classroom instructor will make an equally great (or even adequate) online instructor. By contrast, in my experience, good students in a traditional classroom also make good online students because the key to online learning is initiative and a strong sense of responsibility, qualities that all really good students seem to have. I would also guess that many instructors who are good online are also good in a traditional classroom. That's because part of what makes instructors good in the first place is their sensitivity to how different learning environments can affect the quality of the course, and a concomitant ability to make adjustments based on that sensitivity.

Why might a good classroom instructor have trouble making the transition to online instruction?

Any number of possible factors could affect the quality of instruction online, including skills as seemingly trivial as speed and accuracy in typing and a good proofreader's eye. But the crucial factors in online instruction are organization and, related to that, course design or presentation of material.

Organization and course design. What student hasn't sat in a face-to-face course in which the syllabus gets adjusted on a daily basis as the professor, realizing that he was overly ambitious, is forced to acknowledge that he is not covering the material according to the original plan?

That's all well and good in a traditional classroom: Most students come to class, so the instructor can just announce any adjustments to the next day's schedule. He or she might also grant a deadline extension on the spot, since students can't be expected to hand in their essays on Shakespeare if the instructor is still back on Chaucer.

But online, changing the schedule of what is to be covered and altering assignment deadlines can cause chaos. Say you get behind in the content and decide to extend the deadline for a paper assignment. Inevitably, some students will overlook the announcement you post on the course Web site. They will go ahead and write the paper without the benefit of the instructor's lectures or class discussions and hand it in on the original deadline. When they get it back with a less-than-stellar grade and a note from the instructor explaining that many of their errors could have been avoided by reading the lecture and participating in discussion, they will complain that they didn't know they could have had more time because you, the instructor, didn't stick to the original posted schedule. And you didn't go back through your course Web site and change all the deadlines affected because you knew you risked creating another problem: Would everyone understand that they were now looking at the new due dates and not the old?

The online learning environment can be much less forgiving, for instructors as well as students. That's why it is crucial to be organized when you teach online.

That's also why you need good course design. Without it, your students can easily overlook important components of the course like the schedule of readings and assignment due dates. Because students are mostly silent online (unless you hold real-time meetings, as some instructors do), neither of you may know what they've missed until it's too late.

My advice on course design is to keep it clean, simple, and straightforward. Most of all, post deadlines in as many places as possible on your course Web site: on the syllabus, on the schedule, on the calendar, in the grade book, and under the assignments and readings tabs if you have them.

Best practices. Beyond those basics, what makes for good online courses? Surely the answer varies from discipline to discipline.

But let me begin with two crucial distinctions. The first is that undergraduate courses should be run differently from graduate courses, just as they are in a traditional classroom. While many face-to-face undergraduate courses involve lots of lecturing, many graduate courses do not. The same should hold true for online courses.

The second distinction is that students have to be up to the challenge of learning online, meaning that there is a level of maturity required that is less necessary in a physical classroom.

When undergraduates take courses in a traditional classroom, they can skip class or the reading (or both), and sit passively like baby birds awaiting a worm from Mother, thereby forcing the instructor to do the heavy lifting required to make the course engaging. And as long as students show up at least some of the time, take and pass the tests and quizzes, and turn in their papers, they usually do fine. Trust me, I was a face-to-face instructor (and before that, a student) for long enough to be thoroughly familiar with the panoply of tricks that can be used to thwart full participation in class, or anything like mastery of the course material while still receiving a decent grade.

By contrast, when undergraduates take good courses online, they are required to be full partners in their learning process. That's because "attendance and participation" means not simply warming a seat in a classroom but logging on to the course site, posting a thoughtful and informed comment to the current discussion on the discussion board within a specified time frame, and getting graded on the quality of that comment.

Can you imagine a course in a traditional classroom in which every student participates in every discussion and gets graded specifically for his or her comments? I can't.

Another feature of quality online courses—both undergraduate and graduate—is good course-management software that instructors use to design highly functional, easy-to-navigate virtual classrooms. (It helps if instructors have expert and responsive support from information-technology administrators at their college or university.)

Over the years I have had to use much of the available courseware out there: eCollege, WebCT, WebCT Vista, Blackboard, Blackboard Vista, Angel, Sakai, and a host of programs developed in house by various universities. As much as they have evolved, they are still not all created equal.

Some are easy to use for both instructors and students; others not so much. To cite just one typical problem: The fewer clicks required to reach the course content you're after, the better; that saves time and frustration. Yet much of the software out there is not built to minimize clicks but to ensure that the instructor has maximum flexibility when designing a course.

I guess it's a trade-off, because courseware built that way inevitably adds clicks and headaches for all users. In some courseware these days, after you log on, you may have to click seven times before you reach the grade book and are actually reading a student's paper. Ditto with reading students' comments posted to the discussion board. That's too many clicks. So if you have a choice, use good courseware.

Finally, be friendly and welcoming, just as you would in a traditional classroom. Make yourself available to students as much as possible via cellphone, e-mail, or even instant messaging. That does not mean 24/7, even if some students will hope it does. But if students think you are unavailable to them or unapproachable, they will like you and your course much less.

In a future column I'll examine the difference between assignments that work especially well online versus those better suited to face-to-face courses. I'll also offer advice about how to give instructions to students that are specific enough to cut down on your having to answer the same questions repeatedly while also empowering students to help themselves. Meanwhile, as you begin to imagine yourself becoming an online instructor, it might be helpful to think of your new role, not as that of the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side.

Todd Gilman is librarian for literature in English at Yale University Library and a part-time instructor for the Schools of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University and Wayne State University as well as for the journalism department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Comments

1. broekhuysen - February 22, 2010 at 09:01 am

Re your question and answer "Can you imagine a course in a traditional classroom in which every student participates in every discussion and gets graded specifically for his or her comments? I can't": Most good foreign language classes come very close to that.

2. deb_adair - February 22, 2010 at 09:22 am

Excellent points about the benefits of a well-designed course and the need for instructor responsiveness. After spending 15 years teaching in the face-to-face classroom, my last 6 years teaching online (also as an adjunct associate professor) has been a real eye-opener. Course planning and teacher-student interaction and responsiveness is necessary in both delivery modalities, of course, but teaching online has required me to be much more explicitly mindful of the student experience. I can't simply react and adjust "on the fly" as I would in an on-ground classroom. Being a "guide on the side" as Gilman puts it, requires me to see my classroom as a student would and construct it, to the best of my abilities, to purposely encourage student interaction with the content, with each other, and with me. I believe it has made me a much better teacher.

Deb Adair
Quality Matters

3. kkfungc - February 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

This article could have been more helpful with more specifics.
For example, after saying some course managers are easier to use than others, the author could have named names. But he wants us to try all the possible managers ouselves to find the one we like.

The most pressing problem in online education is what replaces the traditional lectures in undergraduate courses. Not that traditional classrooms should be used for delivering lectures. But putting a hard-copy textbook online supplemented by asynchronous threaded discussion is no solution at all. But publishers have not offered any substitute. Most live-captures of classroom lectures without post-production editing are down-right boring. It might be even be instructional malpractice.

The economics is overdue for online education. But is the technology ready at all?

4. jdbeatty - February 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

Um, having experienced both sides of the online education media, I discovered that a sufficiently motivated student working to a flexible syllabus dosen't need lectures at all. Online texts are used in SOME cases, but for the most part conventional sources are used. Asyncronous discussion works pretty much like a blog, and does as much convincing.

The only problem really arises in lab sciences, and those are addressed, if clumsily. My geology course as an undergrad included a box of rocks, a glass, nail, slate and a DVD. One assignment was to gauge the realism, as we understoood it, of movies with volcanos. Admittedly this is a "rocks for jocks" kind of treatment, but it's better than nothing. It's not for hard science majors, but the lab rats will prefer brick-and-mortar, anyway.

Believe me, the technology is ready if the arts of peadagogy are. Distance learning is NOT for every student, and not for every course. I submit that ALL freshman and sophmore level liberal arts courses can all be taught on-line, and that for many institutions, majors students they may never need to enter a conventional classroom.

5. trendisnotdestiny - February 22, 2010 at 01:00 pm

Can we be honest here? Please... Online education exists because of the ability to financialize products, cutting costs on expensive face to face course content, and to de-skill or re-skill the profession of their old teaching epistemologies...

With all due respect, I realize that this is the way things are headed. However, to miss the "free market" agenda here by privatizing universities and curriculums misses the mark on online education completely... You may help out people who need to learn how teach in this environment, but to not discuss the neoliberal agenda towards privatizing education minimizes the points you hope to make.... so cleverly hidden is the issue of debt to diploma (there is no promise for young people that there economic futures are secured by online education or by any form of higher education at all for that matter)...

Something persuasive might start out with Giroux's understanding of the academic entrepreneur (whereby tenured professors are supposed to earn the university money through grants, prestigue, publication) and on-line teaching assists in this endeavor and can free up (more time consuming and complex face -to-face student interactions).....


ABD

6. tkrutt - February 22, 2010 at 03:07 pm

Just an "fyi" to kkfungc, who complained that the author "wants us to try all the possible managers ouselves to find the one we like."

The fact is that there would really be no point for Mr. Gilman to have spent the time comparing different Course Management Systems, since in most cases, the CMS that faculty must use for a given online course is determined by the institution. Also, having been a faculty technology training manager for a number of years now, I have observed that instructors' opinions about whether or not a given CMS is good or bad tend to be highly subjective. In fact, most instructors tend to prefer the CMS that they learned FIRST--regardless of whether another system might actually work better for their instructional objectives.

7. actlibrary - February 22, 2010 at 03:19 pm

trendisnotdestiny (whatever that means):

You do not know what you're talking about. One, classes and programs offered online are not necessairly the cash cows faculty and administrators think they are - the reality is that there are a lot of start up costs and continuing costs to offer education online. Two, online education can easily take up more time than teaching the same course face to face. And three, if you concerned about the privatization of higher eduation, then why are you earning a doctorate as "ABD" implies unless you plan on working in the private sector?

8. matthewkim - February 22, 2010 at 03:20 pm

I was also wondering, just as kkfungc was, if the author could be more explicit and specific about which course management programs are "better" than others. However, unlike kkfungc, who imputed a negative motive and an agenda to the author, I simply hope the author will read my question and answer it:

If you are willing to share, which course managment system(s) do you feel is "better" than others?

9. haohtt - February 22, 2010 at 05:02 pm

kkfungc: "But putting a hard-copy textbook online supplemented by asynchronous threaded discussion is no solution at all." You are absolutely right. Well-designed online courses do not do this, but many poorly-designed courses do. Each of the course management systems mentioned by Mr. Gilman have uniques strengths and weaknesses, so we tend to operate within them. Those who have spend significant time teaching and administering in both face-to-face and online environments will recognize that Mr. Gilman has "hit the nail on the head" with this article far more effectively than most of what gets printed in the Chronicle on this subject.

10. writerlyreaderly - February 22, 2010 at 07:11 pm

As a full-time university instructor that teaches both traditional and online courses, I have been able to compare the two over the last three years since I began teaching online. One of the biggest myths I've faced has been the assumption that online teaching means less work for students and professors.

The amount of course preparation I conduct for online teaching vastly exceeds what I must do for a face-to-face class. Some of the activities for one lecture include: typing up lecture notes, in detail, over the text; recording audio lectures, editing them, and posting them as mp3s; writing and formatting online quizzes and exams; writing, reading, and grading discussion threads; and answering emails, making phone calls, live chatting, and meeting in person with online students.

Obviously, some of these tasks are similar to classroom preparation, but I have found that online students need much more direction, repetition, and teacher accessibility in order to be successful.

With that said, I also find that the majority of the students are more engaged in the course because of the requirement that they be "present" through active participation (contradicting another myth, that online students learn and retain less than traditional students).

Online learning still suffers from a stigma that it is less "real" or "effective" than courses taught in a traditional classroom. Yet, as Gilman emphasizes, the difference is a matter of delivery and organization, not of quality, when the instructor and students are committed to the learning process.

11. bwatwood - February 23, 2010 at 08:05 am

Other than the title, I agree wholeheartedly with Todd Gilman. Distance is becoming a meaningless term. My online class last fall had several students who live locally, many scattered across three states, and one in Germany. I have taught online courses for institutions in other states in which I was the only distant person.

But when it comes to teaching online, Todd hit the nail solidly as several comments noted. Teaching online is much more than uploading content, it is the skilled facilitation of learning through an interesting media. I agree with tkrutt's comment to kkfungc that the CMS both students and faculty like best is the one they grew up using first. Even as popular as Facebook is, the masses react when the format changes. But any CMS helps with the first points Todd made, it provides a structure on which to organize materials and activities. It also can serve as a springboard to the rest of the web. My class uses Blackboard to organize material, but with my students, we also use a wiki and blogs to open up learning in ways the CMS never allows. The key is not what CMS you use, but how you use whatever CMS is assigned to create engagement and learning.

12. jsnugent - February 23, 2010 at 08:24 am

@bwatwood The functionality of the CMS you describe seems to place highest value on convenience by providing platform standardization that makes organization and access easier.

Your point about using the CMS as a common denominator from which to branch out to the open web is well taken...so do universities really need to spend $$$$$$$$ for a convenience platform? It seems like the need for this is marginal given where the learning takes place.

One thing that is a little unsettling is to advocate for using "whatever CMS is assigned" Why? If I can abondon the enterprise CMS for something that I find far more compelling to student engagement and learning then why shouldn't I? Seems like there needs to be a more compelling rationale here.

13. trendisnotdestiny - February 23, 2010 at 08:29 am

trendisnotdestiny (whatever that means):

It is a concept that comes from human ecology which indicates that there are stages in any system creating change: emergence, continuation or growth, decay, and re-emergence....

You do not know what you're talking about. Nice way to engage your audience! Disdain...


One, classes and programs offered online are not necessairly the cash cows faculty and administrators think they are - the reality is that there are a lot of start up costs and continuing costs to offer education online.

No one said online classes are cash cows... this is your interpretation... (no one is debating that in any transition there are more costs to new endeavors).... However my point is still that the goal of higher education is to change or financialize product (online curriculums, eased entrance into a branded online university, online textbooks) This is called the privatization of education.... Read more about it from Klein, Giroux or McLaren...

Two, online education can easily take up more time than teaching the same course face to face.

Yes, you make a point that it can take up more time... Bravo! This 'financialized' time where the time put in to creation of the course becomes easier and easier to administer or delegate. The purpose is not suggest it always takes less time, but how will the productive prof (who is supposed to be bringing in money) be spending his/her time after the completion of the online class skeleton? This is the central issue. Justifying that people do more learning online and have better engagement is missing how students become "de-skilled" through this process. Business model first, explain how this benefits the students second and (always have in your hip pocket, that it is truly up to the student to learn anyway..... personal responsibility) as their generation wastes away in debt....


And three, if you concerned about the privatization of higher eduation, then why are you earning a doctorate as "ABD" implies unless you plan on working in the private sector?

Your engagement of the reader made this question a combination of false assumptions and indifference...

14. vicden1 - February 23, 2010 at 01:07 pm

I also support online learning. Most schools are contractually bound to one LMS, faculty do not have the luxury of "shopping around" My institution uses Desire2Learn, and it has been very good.
Teaching online, even after the sourse shell has been built, takes a lot of time, more than a F2F class does. A good instructor goes through on a daily basis reading and contributing to discussions, reading a grading papers. Yes, course shells can and are used more than one time, but may need to be changed for a new book, new semester, or because what was there was not as effective as it could be.
Many students benefit greatly from online learning, whether they are in Iraq finishing an interupted degree, or sitting in the residence hall taking a class from the same instructor they take a f2f class from. For working adults, online students are a great way to continue their education and still work, take care of families, etc. Not all students benefit from online classes, I will not argue that, the students who will benefit are those who have the self-discipline to do the work. I have worked with students ranging from 16 yr old HS jrs taking college level courses, through working adults taking the same courses. Age is not necessarily a factor.
@trendisnotdestiny, you strike me as someone who has had a negative experience with distance ed, and have decided it is not an effective way to teach or learn

15. actlibrary - February 23, 2010 at 01:25 pm

trendisnotdestiny,

No wonder you're ABD -- your arguments produce nothing besides the circles of dust surrounding you. Hope that's "engaging".

16. carolaslanian - February 23, 2010 at 02:50 pm

I applaud professors like Todd Gilman for combating the myths of distance education. More than 70 percent of American adults do not possess a college degree and this gap creates a structural cycle of unskilled workers and under-education and underemployment among American adults. Distance learning provides the access to higher education that many of these adults need to help break this cycle as many cannot attend synchronous face-to-face classes due to the demands of their schedule.

Carol Aslanian
EducationDynamics

17. arrive2__net - February 24, 2010 at 03:40 am

Evidence such as that sited by the Department of Education meta-analysis (http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf) indicates that online learning can be more effective than face-to-face ... but I think Gilman's article above is more concerned with how to make online instruction more effective. I think Gilman's article makes a brilliant point that the online format forces the instructor to complete the design of the course upfront, whereas face-to-face can allow the professor more leeway, which is not always a good thing. The quality of instruction varies in online and in face-to-face, but one plus for online in the quality department is that the whole course is usually there in the record, and the professor is cognizant of that, so there is often more accountability on the instructor ... and, of course if the students participation is also a matter of record, which can get his or her attention. I think both formats have their pluses, and the competion between the two formats is probably good for both.
Bernard Schuster
Arrive2.net

18. charold3 - February 25, 2010 at 10:39 am

Mr. (Prof.?) Gilman doesn't help his case by using a strawperson in his 4th paragraph. He writes, "But the attitude also seems to be connected to the very idea of online teaching, as though no real college-level content could be delivered or absorbed without face-to-face interaction between teacher and students." Well, Mr. Gilman, no one would make the claim that NO REAL learning can occur online. I'm sure at least a little learning occurs at the diploma mill operations.
You indicate by this fallacy that you are not willing to look at the real problems involved with online education in its true perspective.

But that isn't your last use of the non sequitur. You state in the next paragraph, "I'll be the first to admit that online delivery of undergraduate or graduate course work is not always a wonderful teaching and learning experience for everyone. But then, neither is face-to-face delivery." This is false equivalance: not every single time I've made love to a beautiful model (male or female--take your pick) did we both have a wonderful experience (well, for the model, anyway).

The rest of your essay follows in a similar path. I don't mean to be cruel, but your reasoning is askew, and this damns more than supports your defense of distance education.

Some administrators at our university are also victims--and thus victimizers of students and us faculty--of similarly fallacious thinking. They equate "more revenue" for our university with "more good," whatever the cost. It's the old Wall Street bottom line that sees profit as the goal, even if it means selling out the heart and soul of a once well-established institution.

19. unused_user_name_727 - February 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I like the way the author put the description below. What a great image. That's what it is all about, trying to get beyond this and get all the students "truly" engaged. That's when they learn, no matter the medium.

"When undergraduates take courses in a traditional classroom, they can skip class or the reading (or both), and sit passively like baby birds awaiting a worm from Mother, thereby forcing the instructor to do the heavy lifting required to make the course engaging. And as long as students show up at least some of the time, take and pass the tests and quizzes, and turn in their papers, they usually do fine. Trust me, I was a face-to-face instructor (and before that, a student) for long enough to be thoroughly familiar with the panoply of tricks that can be used to thwart full participation in class, or anything like mastery of the course material while still receiving a decent grade.

20. kerr7920 - February 27, 2010 at 07:16 pm

Good article, and I look forward to future ones. The real problem with online education today is not that the format is inherently inferior to the brick and mortar classroom. The real problem is that the administrators who are pushing for it are doing so because they believe that online education can be delivered at much lower cost. I would argue that from a labor perspective at least, good online teaching requires MORE not LESS labor labor from the instructor. One of the main reasons so many traditional faculty are resistant to considering the real possibilities of online education is that they don't trust the people who are pushing it. And in many cases, their distrust is warranted.

I also have found much of the courseware cumbersome and slow. the older version of Blackboard used by my institution requires so much clicking to move between discussion boards and other parts of the platform that it can be quite tedious.

21. jsruth - March 01, 2010 at 03:48 pm

Lots of Foreign Language professors -- myself included -- are passionate about the use of Internet resources and out-of-class tech scaffolding for their face-to-face lessons. Terrific online, low-cost multimedia technology is now available for language practice. However, the classroom lessons themselves must remain face-to-face. This is not because of some fear of technology, or of Change itself, but because FL instruction aims at teaching the act of communication itself. Distance ed solutions make sense in some other disciplines that are less bound to essential human interactions. Our ACTFL and NCATE standards documents emphasize the major student outcome of oral proficiency/fluency. Using distance technologies -- even synchronous ones -- to accomplish this goal still reduces considerably the quantity of interactions possible in a given class period, nevermind the loss of key language cues -- e.g. gesture and facial expressions -- that are hugely important in nearly every real world conversation the students will later have. The effect is to lower the quality and quantity of discourse during a class period, and to shortchange students who expect to be able to communicate beyond the gates of the university. Is this what the national movement toward more language competency is aimed at? Hardly. Business leaders and state and federal government officials want college grads who can truly speak a second language. Distance ed surely provides effective savings in some disciplines, but will come at too great a cost if applied to all disciplines blindly. Administrators are faced with extremely difficult decisions regarding program cuts, but for the sake of their constituents -- thousands of student citizens -- cannot afford to disregard differences among disciplines.

22. radioflyer - March 04, 2010 at 06:15 pm

I have an undergrad in General Studies from APU and my experience with the university was mixed. Some of the classes were good but not the case for many of them. Most of the professors gave little or no feedback in our classroom discussions and the interaction was pretty shabby. Sometimes I would get comments on a writing assignment usually, just a grade. I complained a few times about it to my instructors but nothing happened.

One of my professors was really good and we became friends after I graduated. It was explained to me that faculty are way over worked and that full time people are required to teach something like 400 to 600 students a year. That's slave labor!. The pay I was told was bad and that most faculty struggle to make ends meet so they are not very motivated to teach. They do not consider tenure like most colleges when it comes to pay. Part time faculty are paid on a per student basis at low wages. The last time I talked to my old professor, I was told that there were a group of faculty that were going to start pushing back on the university with something called a chaos initiative because they are fed up with being overworked and underpaid. Chaos stands for Cause Havoc Around Our School. Not sure what that is though but I think they are trying to organize something.

I am glad I graduated from APU but the quality of education in most of the classes was pretty bad.

23. librarystudent - March 16, 2010 at 07:31 pm

"...good students in a traditional classroom also make good online students because the key to online learning is initiative and a strong sense of responsibility, qualities that all really good students seem to have."

Thank you! I left the library where I was working because the director told me she did not think the quality of any online MLIS program (mine is San José State University) was as high as an onground program. A private university started a program in a commercial building in a nearby city and this was somehow superior, she believed, to our online program that attracts students from all over the world because, uh, I guess, drywall has educational properties we didn't know about.

I appreciate your point about students being able to sit passively in a classroom without participating. In online classes one huge benefit is that the class discussion is not been dominated by a few, as is often the case in onground classes.

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