This Chronicle interview with George Veletsianos, assistant professor of instructional technology at the University of Texas at Austin, is an absolute must read. Here's an excerpt:
Usually, the average instructor has heard horror stories about online learning being the poor cousin of face-to-face learning—which is unfortunate, because new technologies allow opportunities for enhanced interaction and enhanced pedagogies. And then the amount of time that the instructors need to launch an online class—and the extent to which that is valued from the university. For instance, if there’s no incentives to teach an online class. Or if you’re at an institution that perceives face to face as being the best mode of teaching, then you’re not encouraged actively to go figure out how to teach online.I wrote about this in a blog post here. This is the true pity, I think. We're facing some serious problems with higher education these days, and the one area that is fast innovating and shows the most promise for progress is being held back mostly due to the biased attitudes towards it from status quo educators.
Fret not, though, as Mr. Veletsianos's response to the question of how online education will look in 10-20 years, was rather inspiring:
I think we’ll see more collaborative endeavors in online-learning offerings. For example, students taking courses from multiple universities and bundling them together to create a degree. It will be more social than what it has been. New technologies are moving that way. The rise of social networking, Web 2.0, and the participatory Web: At the center is the social interaction between individuals. It will get appropriated in the higher-education system. Right now most courses that are based on content-management systems are not focused on interaction between participants. They’re focused on, let’s put together this weekly module, and then that’s where the experience happens. The student goes there to read about the weekly module. I think the future is where the center is the student, and the people comprising this online learning community. The student and the community are collaborating on the content. Right now, you might take a class and you might never meet the other students.I suspect he's right about the trajectory of where online education is headed, but color me even more optimistic. He focused on one aspect of progress for tech-ed, but there are many more areas of potential improvement...ones that may revolutionize higher education altogether.