Perils of online schooling

computer professorBy Franklin Sanders

Professor X is a tenured professor at a large state university. He teaches in a discipline that requires great labor, technical expertise, and years of study to master. No doubt some subjects can be taught online and many presentations online are helpful and valuable. But the professor is in no mood to take prisoners.

Online teaching perverts pedagogy as much as incest perverts parenthood, and is as destructive to universities as incest is to family life. It is utterly repulsive, and here’s why. (Note carefully: all my comments take as a base-line great teaching; mediocre or bad teaching isn’t worthy of comment.)

Teaching requires sacrifice

Sacrifice is not optional in teaching; it is required. This sacrifice takes many forms: the teacher’s virtuosic mastery of the content requires far more labor than the student can either imagine or the student’s present needs fully requires. Yet this mastery is required of the teacher because without a complete mastery of his material the teacher is unable to decide what is essential at each state of the student’s progress through the material and what is inessential or superfluous. Sacrifice also involves the teacher’s time and energy.

The teacher sacrifices his own time — time that can be devoted to his own studies — to the careful pedagogy of his students. Course construction, delivery, and evaluation of students’ work fundamentally drain time and energy from the teacher yet there is no other way to teach than to devote to the student that time and energy. The models for the teacher are Jesus and Socrates.

Learning is not data assimilation

Learning is not merely assimilating data. More importantly, it is inculcating love of the subject and the “habits of the heart” the subject engenders, the development of character. The teacher does this not only through his mastery of the subject but also in the gestures of his teaching, in inflections of tone, and especially through conversation. This conversation, both in class and out of class, over coffee, at social functions, is essential to education.

Online education is a fraud

In many subjects, on line education is simply fraudulent. Here is one example: many colleges offer “Speech” as an online course The one thing that a college professor is supposed to model is competence in his subject matter, yet the one thing that the online speech course instructor never does is “speak.”

He types. Typing is not speaking.

And while the students may be required to submit mp4s or similar visual recordings of presentations, these are not the same thing as speeches since, as we all know thing as speeches since, as we all know since the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the most important thing about those kinds of presentations isn’t what’s said butt the lighting and make-up — and there’s nothing in the course about stagecraft. So, bluntly, online speech courses are utter frauds.

Maximize profit, minimize costs

The purpose of “online” education is to maximize profit for the organization offering the course by minimizing expenses. The idea that education requires sacrifice is jettisoned for the idea of education as a commodity that can be sold and bought to fatten the till; as a commodity its production and distribution is to be made ever more efficient and cost effective.

As has become the standard in businesses during my lifetime, this profit motive carries with it the exploitation of labor and the deception of the customer. As in the case of industry’s “planned obsolescence” the student is deceived into believing that the online course is an adequate way to learn while the online instructors are paid a fraction of the wage earned by the traditional face-to-face professor. This has been very profitable for the providers: two years ago, the online courses offered at *** State University during the summer session alone earned the university a ten million dollar profit.

Does baptizing it make it better?

Finally, there are Christian universities aggressively promoting their online courses. Liberty University is the most prominent but Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit Christian institution headquartered in Phoenix with a large catalogue of on line offerings that they aggressively market.

These institutions deserve only our complete disgust and condemnation.

Not only do their offerings trade in all of the problems listed above, they arrogantly pretend that their courses carry a specifically Christian content that is unavailable at the traditional Christian colleges scattered across the country. As institutions that should be examples of standards higher than secular institutions, they have whored that standard for profit and there are no words vile enough to describe what they are doing.

Gresham’s law in education

Just as “bad coin driveth out good”, all of the beliefs, attitudes, and practices that make online education possible and practiced will — with one exception — metastasize to the traditional college courses and eventually kill them off.
The exception will be the most elite institutions.

The constituencies of these institutions know full well the fraudulent nature of online education, and while the corporations they own will profit from it, they themselves will insist upon the traditional training for their own children, very much in the same vein as the food services at Rockefeller University which serve only organically grown food and meats.

Used by permission of The Moneychanger, a privately circulated newspaper published monthly. ISSN 0899-1391. Its goal is to help Christians prosper with their principles intact in an age of monetary and moral chaos. Common law copyright 2015. Price: 12 issues, 14 silver dollars (371.25 grains fine silver, Std. of 1792), or $22 in US 90% silver coin, or other gold or silver equivalent; F$149 if you have nothing but paper “money.” Single copies, $3 in silver, F$10 in paper. Franklin Sanders, P.O. Box 178, Westpoint, TN 38486, phone (931) 766-6066

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