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HARTE: New online course expansion troubling

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HARTE: New online course expansion troubling

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Marquette plans to begin offering an undergraduate degree online program in fall 2019 for an undisclosed number of majors. However, university administrators should reconsider their focus on adding online programs, as these programs maintain a negative stigma and seemingly inferior quality. Students should also evaluate potential learning difficulties they may experience in online courses before signing up.

Through increasing their online course offerings, Marquette joins a growing trend at schools around the nation. A recent survey by Inside Higher Ed found that 83 percent of provosts said their schools will increase their emphasis on expanding online programs and offerings. Marquette currently offers online graduate degrees in programs such as business administration, corporate communication and supply chain management.

Online courses have numerous perceived benefits over face-to-face instruction. Students are afforded more flexibility to complete their class work whenever and wherever they want. Additionally, course sizes aren’t beholden to the number of learners who can fit in a classroom. Students completing a fully online degree can also save money on housing and transportation costs. Nevertheless, these benefits do not outweigh the seemingly inferior quality of education that online learning currently provides.

One of the chief goals of a university should be setting students up for success in future career opportunities. However, employers appear skeptical of the quality of online degrees. Researchers at Texas A&M University studied the perceptions of hiring managers if applicants had an online Masters of Business Administration degree versus a traditional MBA degree. The hiring managers strongly preferred the candidates with a traditional degree. They also indicated a belief that online MBA degrees were less challenging or inferior in quality compared to traditional MBA degrees.

Employers aren’t the only major group questioning the value of online education. Only 30 percent of university faculty members believe that online courses can produce the same learning outcomes as face-to-face instruction, according to a 2018 survey by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup. This is especially concerning because professors can likely gauge the quality of content delivery strategies better than any other group.

Additionally, student performance may be harmed in online courses. Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California studied students across a variety of subject areas at several California community colleges in 2014. They found that students were less likely to complete an online course than a traditional course, and students were also more likely to fail an online course.

The increased difficulty students experienced in online courses may be the result of a lack of self-discipline. Online courses require considerable time management skills, as students don’t have an in-person lecturer keeping them in check for attendance. Students also likely experience difficulty developing friendships with their classmates, who may otherwise be an encouraging factor to maintain success in the course. 

Universities may be promoting online courses because they offer an opportunity to improve their financial status. The Arizona State University Action Lab released a study in 2018 highlighting successful strategies for online learning that have been utilized by colleges like the University of Central Florida and Georgia State University. The study notes that online courses offer universities an opportunity to “improve the financial picture by growing revenue while reducing operating costs.” This additional revenue came through larger class sizes in online courses, which equates to more enrolled students paying for tuition. A cost-saving strategy involved having adjunct or part-time faculty teach online courses. 

Students should give significant consideration into deciding if they’ll be successful in an online course or degree program. Administrators should also reconsider in online education until it can be proven to be just as effective as face-to-face learning. 

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “HARTE: New online course expansion troubling”

  1. Shiva K on February 5th, 2019 11:28 pm

    Really Online Courses are getting trending due to the quality of education and live practical work. Additional benefits of discussion, forum submission to get solutions for their doubts. @LearnTheNew

  2. Thomas Russell on February 14th, 2019 4:24 pm

    I agree with your point that online courses require a lot of self-discipline and are not for everyone. The same can be said about face to face classes, especially for full time working adults who can’t attend the majority of undergraduate classes offered at Marquette since these classes are only offered between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.

    The intended audience for these new online undergraduate degrees are not the average college age student but instead working adults who have some college credits and need a few more courses to complete a degree.

    By offering these online degrees, Marquette helps working adults complete their education to further their personal and professional growth in a way that is accommodating to the unique demands of non traditional students.

    Given that the pool of high school students is slowly declining, especially in northern Wisconsin (https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/10/23/wisconsin-budget-northern-wisconsins-decline-in-children/) these online programs also offer a way for Marquette to grow enrollment.

    Regarding your statement “Nevertheless, these benefits do not outweigh the seemingly inferior quality of education that online learning currently provides,” that is outright #FakeNews. An overwhelming number of studies have shown that when the course materials and teaching methodology were held constant, there were no significant differences between student outcomes in a distance delivery course as compared to a face to face course. In other words, student outcomes in distance delivery courses were neither worse nor better than those in face to face courses – http://www.nosignificantdifference.org/faq.asp.

    The more ways Marquette can meet the educational needs of the community, whether that is online, hybrid or face to face, the better.

  3. Sarah on February 16th, 2019 10:23 pm

    I’m not sure why people think that the research produced by WICHE at the nosignificantdifference.org website is above reproach. If you look at who the commissioners are for their organization only about 2-3 of the around 50 listed are faculty and many are former or current college presidents, politicians, and business owners. Their genuine interest in whether people are educated rather than receiving degrees so we can quickly and cheaply funnel them into the workforce seems highly questionable. I agree with the author of the article and there is plenty of research to suggest either that the outcomes of online education are poorer and that the quality, expectations of the curriculum, and safeguards against cheating are far lower. Education is not like fast food, nor should it be.

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