Why Do We Need To Argue Online vs. Face-to-Face Anyways?

After reading all of these reports that study and compare online courses versus face-to-face course, I have to ask: why on Earth do we even need to know which one is better?  Why are so many people intent on setting up some battle royale where only one or the other can survive?

Online learning has its pros and cons, just like face-to-face learning does.  So, it is not suprising that some studies are finding that hybrid approaches work best.  That should not surprise anyone – you take the best of both worlds and the results are bound to be awesome.  Peanut butter and chocolate – need I say more?

We need to realize that sometimes the online option is chosen not because it is superior, but because it is most convenient.  People want a certain degree, for example, but it is not offered near them.  So the compromise to not getting the degree at all is to take it online.  Whether it is better than getting the degree face-to-face is irrelevant – it is the only option they have.  Or maybe even the person lives near a college with the degree, but has such a crazy work schedule that asynchronous learning is the only option.

Or it may even be that they can go get the face-to-face degree, but opt for the online one because some bad article some where convinced them that online learning is “better.”  They might be the type of person that doesn’t do so well online, and end up dropping out before completion.

All that these crazy studies are going to do is discourage people from getting a degree or training or education of some kind because they will be fearful of getting a lesser education.  We need to quit proving to people that one or the other is better and just present them with the facts and let them chose the option that best suits them.

Wow… why does that concept sound so… familiar… ? It is almost like…. some other industry out there uses it or something….

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

3 thoughts on “Why Do We Need To Argue Online vs. Face-to-Face Anyways?

  1. Katrina Adams

    Do you think, Matt, that rather than it being a great “battle” as you describe it, that maybe instead it’s more of an advertising campaign?

    I agree with you completely — best of both worlds, chocolate/peanut butter, yadda yadda yoda. For the most part, mainstream media depicts online classes/degrees/education as the ignorant step-child of higher ed. Recently, I saw a great example of this on a tv show (can’t remember which – should have ranted immediately about it — bad edugeek!) in which a character took an online class b/c it was the easy way out of taking a course. So I’m seeing this great sizing up of online vs. “traditional” ed as more of a way of convincing us and our our prospective students (and even prospective employers of online graduates) that online can be just as good as traditional.

  2. Matt Crosslin

    Advertising campaign as in a way to create controversy to increase readership? Probably totally so :)

    I don’t know if we have much need to prove that online is just as good as traditional. Most of these reports seem recently seem to be aimed at proving online learning isn’t as good as some think it is, which tells me there might be good perceptions out there about online learning. Recent studies show that a large majority of employers are accepting of online degrees from reputable colleges. That wasn’t so 10 years ago. But also 10 years ago, everyone I talked to was skeptical of online learning. Today, I never talk to anyone that doubts it.

    But I could be a little ignorant on that one – its not like I talk to tons of people. But I don’t have a problem with people proving they are as good as each other. It just seems to me that the slant recently has been more towards a battle that only one can win. But that could just be because I read The Chronicle too much and they tend to be anti-online a bit :)

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