The Loss Leader Generation

A helpful juxtaposition… First, a story shared by a  colleague in a training course I am taking:

Faculty members are far less excited by, and more fearful of, the recent growth of online education than are academic technology administrators, according to a new study by Inside Higher Ed and the Babson Survey Research Group.

Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education, 2012,” Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed

And then the  Net Gen Skeptic, a blog another colleague pointed me to, which documents research that’s often skeptical about the use of new technologies:

The purpose of this blog is to provide a balanced exploration of research and commentary on the impact of digital technologies on higher education.This blog … aims to develop a deeper understanding of the role of digital technology in higher education, how learners use technology for academic, social and other purposes and how those uses are related.

About, Net Gen Skeptic

I am not sure how helpful the IHE / Babson study really is in the long run, since enthusiasm or excitement is hardly a good measure of the pedagogical or social validity of online education but the framework of the study does suggest that technology administrators are one of the driving forces behind the growth of digital technology in higher education. That sounds like putting the wagon ahead of the horse.

The Net Gen Skeptic blog, however points to a growing catalog of evidence that our ideas about online education are saddled with misconceptions and myths, particularly when it comes to the dramatic claim that people born after a certain moment– to paraphrase my colleague, “into a world that has always had the internet and smart phones”– have been so transformed that they can no longer be taught in the traditional classroom.

It’s an idea more connected to advertising hyperbole than to pedagogy.  A student who gets his or her first Iphone at age 10 is no more or less likely to learn the sorts of critical thinking skills needed to do good research and writing than any one else.  The idea of the “Digital Native”  has one advantage: it’s a great way to convince an administration to buy more stuff. In the current academic climate that’s more attractive than investing in people.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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