Traditional Instructors Will Remain, But Online Learning Heralds a New BreedPepper Lynn Werner | Doctoral Student, University of Wyoming
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.
Author Perspective: Student