Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Newspapers continue to hemorrhage. What industry is next? Higher education.

Newspaper circulation numbers continue to hemorrhage. They're now down another 10% over the past six months; the biggest drop in a decade.

It's the largest drop recorded so far during the past decade's steady decline in paid readership -- a span that has coincided with an explosion of online news sources that don't charge readers for access. Many newspapers also have been reducing delivery to far-flung locales and increasing prices to get more money out of their remaining sales.

This has been brought on by the the access to the Internet. What industry will next be impacted by the Internet? Education and especially higher education. Marvin Olasky points this out in a column entitled: "Classroom without Walls: Online Higher Education."

He addresses the question of whether online education can match the classroom experience.
Online media can bring words and photos equivalent to those of a newspaper, but can online education match the classroom experience? And, since college tuition buys not only education (sometimes) but higher status and improved future earnings, will online diplomas be satisfactory union cards?
The evidence suggests online education can be better, at least academically, as classroom education.

Some new evidence suggests that the answer to both questions will soon be yes. More than 1,000 studies of online learning have been published during the past 13 years. A U.S. Department of Education analysis of them concluded that, on average, "students in online learning conditions performed better than those
receiving face-to-face instruction" in the same courses. One reason is that face-to-face is often not face-to-face: Many college students snooze in big lecture halls. In good online courses, though, instructors require every student to answer questions and stay involved.
He then relates his own experience as a university professor.

I've spent three decades in college classrooms and have been to only five operas, all in New York, but here's a tentative analogy: Opera in person is great if you're up close and can both hear the music and watch the expressions on the singers' faces. It's not so great if you're in the balcony. I enjoyed last month sitting with my wife, Susan, in the Lincoln Center plaza and watching Metropolitan Opera HD films, especially since the price was right (free). That's far better than paying $160 just to hug the back wall of the hall.

Similarly, it's great for students to sit in a small seminar with a wise, passionate Christian professor pushing students to think. It's a waste of time and money for students to sit at the back of a big lecture hall as a time-serving tenured mediocrity drones on. The Washington Monthly last month ran an article, "College for $99 a Month." Author Kevin Carey wrote, "The day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before."

Such articles along with the Department of Education study show that online education has moved from the margins to the center, and that online degrees will soon be thoroughly respectable. The best Christian colleges, the highest-prestige private ones, and the best-funded state universities with good football teams will survive in a bricks-and-mortar way, but online schools will take the place of many mediocre ones.
I think this new development, while being disruptive will be, overall, a definite positive. It will for one breakup the elite, secular worldview which increasingly has a near monopoly on higher education.

1 comment:

Herb said...

the only thing that is hemorraging is the extremist groups like the MFC. with new laws that will not allow your bashing, and indoctrination, and leagal bigotry, like the new hate crime bill, people will be able to walk the streets without fear of the radical right!

finally christ and God will smile, knowing that people are doing things the way He intended!