Published on 2013/03/12

Traditional Instructors Will Remain, But Online Learning Heralds a New Breed

The Role of the Educator over the Next Decade
In 10 years’ time, the traditional academic setting will still remain, with educators who will continue to serve that setting. However, the online learning market will grow exponentially, breeding a new generation of instructors to serve those students.

There is no question that times have changed in higher education. Long gone are the days of walking three miles to school, uphill both ways, in a blinding blizzard; or sitting in a classroom with 15 of our closest friends. We are exposed to virtual classrooms of 100,000 students from every corner of the globe, discussing topics from medicine to law to music. As a result, the role of the educator has changed, and will continue to evolve over the next decade. It is a necessity that we evolve with the needs of the students, and that isn’t always an easy process, particularly to the long-time professor who has “always done it this way.”

To keep students engaged, we must fall victim to the latest whim of those whom we serve. Yes, this means adopting all of the technology that we avoid, the time-consuming learning curve and the secret admission that they are so much more advanced than we are. It can be a tough pill to swallow. However, there is hope. Regardless of the approach — brick-and-mortar, videoconference, online, or the old-timey correspondence course (yes, some institutions still offer that) — the goal is the same. Prepare the students for internationalization with 21st-century skills to be out in the world, and provide the academic freedom they require to be successful; using the latest technology and gadgets to stay ahead of the curve (or at least parallel to it) while making a positive difference in the lives of those that are our future. That is the educator’s purpose, whatever the outlet may be.

I would be remiss in saying there isn’t a need for the Massive Open Online Courses. I have been exposed to several topics that I never would have had access to in my rural community. However, there is nothing that compares to a professor knowing your name, asking about your child’s soccer game and meeting the group for coffee outside of class time. Yet, without my current program being offered through the University’s outreach school, I wouldn’t be able to pursue my terminal degree.

As a full-time doctoral student in educational leadership, I don’t believe the need for the traditional academic setting will ever disappear. When considering the variety of learning styles students possess, there will always be those who won’t thrive in an online environment or who don’t hold enough self-discipline to attend a weekly videoconference with little accountability. For those, a traditional classroom works best. After all, the pre-service teachers in my College of Education will most likely end up in that type of environment after graduation.

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Readers Comments

Ian Richardson 2013/03/12 at 2:12 pm

Teachers’ purposes should be the same no matter the outlet. We make too big a deal of delivery method, format, etc. but, as long as educators focus on meeting the objectives of teaching, we will be providing our students with the education they deserve.

    Pepper 2013/03/25 at 11:05 am

    Ian-
    I agree with your comments that the Teachers’ purpose should/would be the same no matter the outlet. The issue is the students’ perspective. It is based on learning styles, accessibility, cost, and other outside factors that aren’t necessarily related to the teacher.

Dan Jones 2013/03/12 at 6:38 pm

This is a well-balanced article that explains the benefits and drawbacks of both in-class and online learning. It seems to me that a good model to pursue moving forward would be a hybrid of the two delivery formats, which would allow students to experience the “best of both worlds,” as it were, while also mitigating the drawbacks of each.

    Pepper 2013/03/25 at 11:07 am

    Dan-
    That is exactly the issue that we face at the University of Wyoming. With our State being so large, the students confront the travel issue and the hybrid courses work well. They might consist of 3 intensive weekends throughout the semester and the remainder is online. This serves a significant portion of our population.

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