Educause Defends Online Learning

Two of the most commonly asked questions about online education by its critics are:

  • 1) Does it require more preparation time from professors?
  • 2) How are cheating and academic dishonesty avoided?

At this year’s annual Educause conference held in Philadelphia and over the Internet simultaneously, a panel of academic technologists were asked these very same questions. Education technologists, such as panelist George Otte from City University of New York, defended online education by saying that the amount of time it takes for professors to organize and maintain an online class does not necessarily mean it takes longer for students to learn material. "We may be confounding the time it takes to do something with the time it takes to learn to do something," he said, according to an Inside Higher Ed article on the subject. He also added that as more faculty members become acquainted with online teaching methods, the amount of preparation will lessen over time.

In response to the argument that online learning makes it easier to cheat, the panel reasoned that any issues with cheating seen in online classrooms are the same as the issues seen in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms. Today’s online professors can use the same anti-plagiarism software that traditional professors use, such as TurnItIn and Viper, and some even use online plagiarism detection tools like DupliChecker to curb academic dishonesty. On the test taking end, there are websites like Proctor U that can allow professors to watch students as they take exams via webcam. With these measures in place, it is hard to say that online education warrants or promotes more cheating.

While it still has its critics, online education has gained more credibility and has proven itself as a reliable delivery method in higher education. Another one of the main arguments against online learning has been the lack of face-to-face interaction with professors and other classmates, but thanks to advancements in information technology — such as web cameras, social media, and streaming videos — online pupils can also share in the classroom experience.

Many online professors and successful graduates of online programs agree that the online delivery method enhances learning in several ways. Most students are required to regularly participate in online forums that force them to flesh out their writing skills. Also, in many courses, students are expected to learn material at a faster rate than on-campus courses. So even though preparing an online course may require more work of professors — and in turn, more reading from them and students alike — it does not relate to how quickly students are able to learn material via the Internet. Thanks to online learning advocacy groups like Educause, online education has gained even more credibility.

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