Opinion Polls and the Continuing Mission of Ed Tech

So the news today is that opinion polls found that the general population still finds traditional classes to be better than online ones in a few key areas. I find polls like these fascinating, but not because I think they spell trouble for online learning. These are opinion polls and therefore don’t necessarily spell out fact. What they do reflect is what message is most often heard. And what is currently dominating the message? xMOOCs. So you are probably dealing with some misunderstood terms here.

Anyone in online learning knows that online courses can be just as good or bad at things like “instruction tailored to each individual,” providing “high-quality instruction from well-qualified instructors,” or offering “rigorous testing and grading that can be trusted.” The reality is that those are all factors that depend more on design and instructors than whether something is online or not. Personally I have never been in a face-to-face class that allowed for “instruction tailored to each individual.” But I know many online programs that do. So I am making a case that individual perception is biased – so what?

The so what part is that we still need the evangelists out there, spread the good news of online learning. Not as the only method of learning for the future, but as one that is every bit as equal to face-to-face learning. I think many of us just sit back and think the case has been made and the battle has been won, when polls like this one still show some ground to be gained.

And did anyone else notice that this poll found a much higher satisfaction rate with college in general than the “death of the university” crowd has been preaching? I may to hold off my early retirement plans if this whole university thing survives….

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