Dear Commons Community,
Jennifer Morton, an assistant professor of philosophy, had an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this week on the appropriateness of online instruction, specifically the MOOC model, for her students at City College – CUNY. Her premise is:
“A college education bestows not just cognitive skills—mathematical, historical, and scientific knowledge—but practical skills—social, emotional, and behavioral competencies. Tenacious, confident, and socially competent employees have an edge over equally cognitively talented employees who lack those practical skills. What students cannot learn online are precisely those social skills.”
She goes on to comment that she is not entirely against online instruction:
“The reluctance of some professors to embrace online education would seem to stem from nostalgia for a model of education that is not only unsustainable, but inaccessible for most students. However, I’m not suggesting that public universities should not rely on MOOCs to fulfill some of their teaching needs. Rather, our priority should be to offer students, in particular those who are not already part of the middle class, a classroom in which they can learn to navigate middle-class social norms, be comfortable with and develop relationships with students from different backgrounds, and speak their minds. The onus here is not just on the administration to lower class size, but also on college professors to foster the kind of classroom in which students can develop those elusive practical skills.”
I agree with much of what Professor Morton says in this piece. It is becoming clear to me that higher education’s future is evolving into one based on models that integrate online learning with face-to-face instruction. The blending of digital content and stimulating and diverse face-to-face pedagogical experiences can provide powerful learning experiences for all students.