According to recent business news, Jack Welch, a former CEO of General Electric, and another provider of educational services have apparently combined resources to create a new online "university" specializing in business education. It is the latest development in a burgeoning new entrepreneurial trend emphasizing so-called personalized educational programs that one completes on his/her own schedule at home and/or on the job, as evidenced by the unending advertisements for such services in print media and on the internet and television.
Among the concerns of educational traditionalists are (1) the real potential for scams/rip-offs in this new educational arena (which is considerable) and (2) the detachment/separation of many online providers from reputable universities with an established "track record".
The word and concept of a "university" has its origins in a Latin phrase roughly translated as a community of teachers and scholars, and many of the first universities in Medieval Europe were an evolutionary continuation or outgrowth of learning in monasteries under communal and personal face-to-face interactive conditions such as tutorials and seminars.
It does not seem likely or even probable to some observers of this new "crop" of educational providers that they are continuing the time-tested best practices of the traditional campus-based university. For example, while some academic subjects/skills essential for an MBA (e.g., Statistics) and for an MFA in Creative Writing (e.g., Journal Writing and the necessarily lonely task of writing itself) might be learned well in the educational "cocoon" or isolation of one's home, what about the equally essential skills of human relations (lab simulations of problem-solving) in an MBA and seminar interactivity of a community of writers in an MFA?
I personally can affirm that some of my best officer leadership training in the military occurred in simulations with real people interacting, and some of my most valuable/insightful experiences in creative writing occurred during personal interactions in groups, seminars and workshops. The absence of such learning experiences in online programs is surely a serious deficiency.
I am not categorically questioning/indicting the worth of all online "distance learning" programs, especially when they are written and taught by faculty at reputable universities with actual campuses. In fact, for full disclosure, I formerly worked in that area as a course writer, editor and instructor. The greater variety of such course offerings can provide learning opportunities not otherwise available on many campuses. Thus, utilizing these resources on a supplementary basis can serve one's educational interests well, but I think educational leaders/theorists need to raise serious questions, as done in this blog, about the worth and quality of any education completed exclusively online, particularly from new entrepreneurial providers without any proven record in educational services.
In conclusion, many of us in this Red Room community, certainly myself, would be interested in blog comments below about personal online or distance-learning experiences as well as views about the more general educational issues explored in my blog here.
Causes Brenden Allen Supports