Online teaching is a money-making scheme, but it’s not the successful, credit-earning students who make the money for the institution. What makes unis money are the online students who drop out after three, six, or seven weeks of frustration, inattention to the work, and/or a failing grade on a paper or major assignment. If you know that (for example) 15 or 20 students out of a class capped at 40 will drop out, then you don’t have to actually staff classes as though they’re going to have 40 real students. Every student who drops our or walks away from a course leaving money on the table is pure profit.
Maybe uni faculty have missed this point because we actually think that education should be about, you know, educating people, not rooting for them to drop out.
I’m sure this is not an original thought, but it occurred to me yesterday as I talked to a fellow student at my yoga studio who was a full-time adjunct at our local CC. She explained that the CC is all in on online ed–the educrats running the place think that it’s the future. As usual, I’m skeptical: it seems to me that the value of our CCs is that they offer college classes that are smaller than the big intro sections that our first-year students and sophomores take at Baa Ram U., and give students who don’t feel prepared yet to navigate a large university some confidence and training in college-level math, reading, and writing. These are the kinds of students who need more help and coaching to figure out how to do college–and therefore, they’re the kind who are likely to throw money away on online courses unless and until they figure this out.
I’ve been thinking about why some students drop courses or (worse yet) remain enrolled after ceasing to attend class or to submit any work, forcing me to deliver an F at the end of the term. If I have at least a few of these students every semester at a four-year university, then how much worse is the problem at a CC, which attracts students who are almost by definition either academically unprepared or otherwise unready for a four-year uni? How much worse would it be when CC students are left to their own devices in an online course?
The number of students I have every year who pay for courses but who don’t earn any credit also makes me wonder about complaints about the “high cost of higher ed.” Really? Do you think I ever just walked away from my classes at an expensive SLAC? Maybe the problem is that it’s too affordable for many of our students to waste their time and money at Baa Ram U.
Most of what I know about online courses comes from Jonathan Rees at More or Less Bunk. He might have something to say about this.