Online schools are mushrooming everywhere these days, and it’s not that hard anymore to tell the genuine ones from the diploma mills. A number of online institutions have established strong brand names and reputations for themselves, and even with traditional brick and mortar big guns like MIT jumping on the online education bandwagon, it stands to reason that place-based higher education is losing the importance and prestige it once held.
The death of brick and mortar colleges will likely be long, slow, and painful, but here are ten reasons why we should consider speeding up the process and abolishing them right now:They’re way too expensive for most people. Unless you have enough money stashed away or come into an inheritance, you’re likely to find yourself deep in debt by the time you graduate.
- They set admission criteria that are overrated and totally unnecessary in order to earn an education.
- No matter what additional qualifications you may have, it’s your grades that finally matter when you seek admission into a brick and mortar college with a good reputation. So if you’re looking for a second chance, with the hope of turning your life around after goofing up in high school, traditional institutions don’t give you one.
- Online equivalents are just as good when it comes to quality and the only reason people hesitate to accept them is because traditional colleges were around first.
- Online education builds more character and infuses discipline into your life – you’re more motivated to succeed because you’re going to college for a particular reason and not just because it’s expected of you.
- Online education is the best way to take learning to the masses and make education affordable to all irrespective of their background and financial constraints.
- Online education does not discriminate on any basis – age, race, color, caste, culture – when it comes to admitting students. The sky is the limit when you choose to study online.
- Online education is flexible – you can choose to finish your degree as fast as or as slow as you like, you can earn while you learn, and you can schedule classes according to your convenience.
- Online education lets you do more in less time – you can take two or even more degrees simultaneously if you’re able to manage the course work and keep up with your assignments and lessons.
- Online institutions define the future of education – with our increasing reliance on technology and the dwindling supply of the world’s natural fuel reserves, very soon people are going to prefer to stay home and learn using their computers and the Internet.
This guest post is contributed by Carrie Oakley, who writes on the topic of online colleges. Carrie welcomes your comments at her email id: carrie.oakley1983(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
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5 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Abolish Brick and Mortar Colleges”
> They set admission criteria that are overrated and totally unnecessary in order to earn an education.
I agree that most admissions criteria are dumb, (My high school transcript from 1988 was rejected by one school because it was a black and white document. Huh???) and many only persist because of tradition. However, I consider this a relatively minor problem. Students do need a certain level of preparation to be able to benefit from college classes, so you can’t have *no* criteria.
BYU Pathway Connect is an example of a program designed to prepare students for college level work. Admission requirements are minimal, and if you pass the first year of foundation courses with a B average, you are automatically qualified for the school’s regular program. This is a great idea.
> No matter what additional qualifications you may have, it’s your grades that finally matter when you seek admission into a brick and mortar college with a good reputation. So if you’re looking for a second chance, with the hope of turning your life around after goofing up in high school, traditional institutions don’t give you one.
Grades only matter because many institutions (e.g. some employers, and some colleges) consider looking at your GPA an easy substitute for getting to know you. Doing so saves them time and lets them focus on the candidates who have played the grade-getting game to win. This is not the same as competence in any particular endeavor and is a poor predictor of future success. What matters is what you have learned and how that journey has transformed you, which is a hard thing to measure on a four-point scale.
As far as second chances go, only the most selective schools will refuse to re-admit a student who has taken time to demonstrate that they have learned to take their learning seriously.
> Online equivalents are just as good when it comes to quality and the only reason people hesitate to accept them is because traditional colleges were around first.
“Online equivalents” is a problematic phrase: When combined with “just as good,” this is a circular argument. There are many reasons to prefer online programs and there are many reasons to prefer face-to-face programs. They are only “equivalent” for a very limited set of criteria.
A motivated student can benefit from either or both. Some subjects lend themselves to one or the other. For example, computer programming can be learned quite well online, but language learning proceeds much faster when you pair face-to-face with a sympathetic native speaker. I don’t believe that there is any reason to shoehorn *every* course into either environment.
> Online education builds more character and infuses discipline into your life – you’re more motivated to succeed because you’re going to college for a particular reason and not just because it’s expected of you.
Doing something—anything—because it is expected is a recipe for failure. If you can’t figure out a good reason to go to college, you shouldn’t go. Even if it’s free. Even if it is online.
Many online courses are essentially “Here is the book. Figure it out. The test is in 8 weeks.” This requires a higher level of internal motivation than, for example, a class with live professors an TAs. However, benefiting from offline classes requires just as much discipline and grit. I have seen a trend in online schools to require “university skills” classes that explicitly teach these study disciplines and learning strategies. In my view, these classes are far more important than college algebra or composition 101. These “character” classes should also be required in brick-and-mortar schools.
> Online education is the best way to take learning to the masses and make education affordable to all irrespective of their background and financial constraints.
I believe that “learning for the masses” is the problem, not the solution. When we try to create education factories that reduce every student to a GPA and a broad “major” with a set of required courses, we almost guarantee that a large number of people will be left behind. Background and financial constraints will always be constraints. It is not easy to study calculus when you don’t know what you will eat tomorrow, especially when calculus has no meaningful connection to your life except that it was deemed “required” by a government official or tenured professor in an ivory tower half a world away.
> Online education does not discriminate on any basis – age, race, color, caste, culture – when it comes to admitting students. The sky is the limit when you choose to study online.
Culture plays a huge role when it comes to online learning. Admitting a student does not mean they will thrive. I took a class online with a university that prides itself on its inclusivity—it admits students from almost every country, promising an “accredited American” degree to anyone who is reasonably fluent in English and has a reliable internet connection. These students were then dumped into a Moodle classroom and forced to interact with their peers as a major part of their grade. The Americans had huge advantages because they were more proficient in English and were culturally more individualistic and less willing to defer to perceived authority. This “American mindset” of independence takes time to learn. It is independent of admissions policies.
> Online education is flexible…. Online education lets you do more in less time
Asynchronous classes are a win in most areas. I believe, however, that there is a lot of value in at least weekly live video conferences.
I have also found that I tend to complete classes more often if they are time-bound with concrete due dates. Open-entry/open-exit courses have their place, but I tend to procrastinate if no one is expecting me to complete work by a deadline.
> Online institutions define the future of education – with our increasing reliance on technology and the dwindling supply of the world’s natural fuel reserves, very soon people are going to prefer to stay home and learn using their computers and the Internet.
If the COVID crisis has demonstrated anything, it is that *most* people *do not* prefer to stay at home and stare at a computer screen. *Most* people become depressed without regular in-person interaction.
Tossing in a reference to discredited Malthusian arguments about dwindling supplies and limited “carrying capacity” does not support your conclusion that online institutions should define the future of education. Indeed, offering every person the ability to benefit from high-quality, transformative education is the best path forward to solving the hard problems we face as a civilization. How many Elon Musks and Nicola Teslas are buried in poverty and war and corruption in Africa? What if they all had access to great learning opportunities? The internet is a valuable tool to help us provide this, but it is not a silver bullet. It will take a lot of boots on the ground to reach everyone.
I am all for this, I don’t understand why everyone believes you have to go to college to learn a trade or even at all when it’s not required for your career. You save SO much money and time
1) Online universities charge tuition, too—in some cases, more than bricks-and-mortar institutions. Check out West Virginia University, a Research Class I institution that has produced 29 Rhodes Scholars. (More than Pitt, PSU, and Carnegie-Mellon combined.) Check out Slippery Rock University, which has just been ranked #5 in the country for its combination of high quality and low cost.
2) In what ways are admissions criteria overrated and unnecessary? Put another way, why should precious resources (specifically, the time and effort of professors) be wasted on students who do not have what it takes to make it?
3) Actually, they will, after you have shown that you really have turned your life around. Many institutions of higher learning, especially land-grant colleges and universities, offer programs specifically designed for those who did not do well in high school.
4) How do you define and measure “quality”? This massive assertion is offered to us sans a single shred of proof.
5) More massive assertions offered without a shred of proof. No refutation of this point is necessary.
6) Online education is one way to educate a large number of people. It may or may not be the best way. A great deal would depend on how one defines “best.” One question that comes to mind almost at once is, “How does online education propose to handle the issue of the student-teacher relationship?” Another is, “On what do you base the claim that online education enables people to attend ‘irrespective of their background and financial constraints’?”
7) I am a graduate of West Virginia University. The sky is the limit when you study at WVU. WVU does not discriminate in any of the ways you mentioned. Any institution that chose to engage in discriminatory practices would soon find itself in court.
8) Same for bricks and mortar—I attended WVU and received a BA and an MBA while working full-time.
9) At WVU, any student who can handle the workload can take a degree in virtually any major; can also take a minor in another field; and can take a double major.
10) I disconcur. Online education offers an alternative that may be more attractive to some particular set of potential students. In fact, WVU’s innovative Executive MBA program (which embodies distance-learning elements) already shown the world what education can be, and what it can become.
And another thing…
I believe that, for the overwhelming majority of high-school graduates about to enter college for the first time, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with their fellow students—both in and out of the classroom.
Carrie — Love this idea! But I do question your #6, as most colleges and universities (for-profit or not) are still charging far more than they have to for their online degree programs. Once the infrastructure is in place (which is the highest cost related to any online educational program), recurring costs are primarily the result of hosting, maintenance & security (SW, HW, and personnel), and those leading the sessions.
One three-credit MBA course at the University of Phoenix, for example, is close to $2200… a three-credit course for an undergrad course will run someone $1740. Can most people afford that? Especially those traditionally unable to afford a graduate degree? I’m not convinced they can.
That there are for-profit educational institutions such as the University of Phoenix not only able to survive but thrive should be an indication to us all that those tuition fees can certainly be reduced, benefiting many more people — especially those most needing higher education degrees.
I actually NEED a proper classroom setting to learn languages faster and better. I’ve tried learning online at chat sites and stuff, but it didn’t work for me. Also, Having a proper classroom setting over a conference call online ensures that the teacher can have every student participate. For me, it was being able to talk to my friends and teacher face-to-face that helped me so much.
And, conversations aren’t quite as funny if you can’t hear the call too well, you have to type it all up, or you know, there are no classmates!