Article On Becoming a Phoenix: Encounters With the Digital Revolution by Catharine R. Stimpson attempts a foray into evaluating the opportunities and challenges posed to education by the digital revolution. The conclusions she reaches are untenable for reasons I’ve written about in a previous blog “Online Learning vs Traditional Learning: The Need for Reasonable Reasoning.” To quote, I say:
“Often those who oppose online learning usually (1) don’t define what they mean by online learning, (2) have never seriously or officially participated as a student or a teacher in online learning, (3) have never studied what the research says about online learning, (4) are personally or professionally vested in the maintenance of traditional forms of education, and (5) do not bring to the conversation the same type of dispassionate, scientific approach they would to any other important question.”
Stimpson is acceptable on point 1 and 2. But she does not adequately or professionally answer points 3, 4, and 5. If she were grading her own students on a topic of her expertise and her students did not satisfactorily address each of these points, she would not give them a passing grade. It is ironic to me that as much as we in Higher Education preach objectivity, thoroughness, delayed judgment, and critical thinking, and we have impossibly high standards for the students to demonstrate these very attributes, that we so often struggle as professionals to lead by example, to practice what we preach. This break down among Higher Educational professionals in not practicing what they preach is widely and easily seen in the ongoing discussions about the role and future of learning and education, especially when the topic of online learning or digitally mediated learning is part of the conversation.
Key problems with her methodology. She believes that by taking one class in online learning she somehow has gathered enough evidence to make final conclusions regarding the future of education. I can’t imagine that she would give a passing grade to any of her students had they written the same report, made the same conclusions, and then in such a nationally public way, made such recommendations. The opportunities and challenges posed by the digital revolution are far more vast, complex, and nuanced than one single individual to fully master because of attending one single online course. Has she ever seriously investigated what is happening daily in the world of educational technology? A daily review of EdSurge can even make an arm-chair hobbyist look like an expert in the field of educational technology, which includes online learning (see more below).
To choose one University of Phoenix course to make all of the claims that she does about online learning and the digital impact on education and learning is akin to reading one single piece of English literature and then basing your entire conception of the English language and English literature on your experience with that single piece of literature. Such an approach is professionally untenable. We wouldn’t let it stand in college classrooms or in any other serious discussion of any other academic topic. Then why is it acceptable when the discussion revolves on the question of education and the impact the digital revolution is having on it?
By the way, what is EdSurge? From their website: “EdSurge is an independent information resource and community for everyone involved in education technology. We aim to help educators discover the best products and how to use them and to inspire developers to build what educators and learners need.”