Concerning a recent letter by professor Earl C. Johnson on his perceived shortfalls of online formal learning, Professor Johnson is certainly correct that online classes will not replace physical classrooms and that online learning can be quite convenient for students. However, the suggestion that all online classes are inferior to traditional classroom education is fallacious. When planned, implemented, and managed correctly, online learning can be as effective as the face-to-face classroom. The key to this effectiveness is learner and teacher motivation which is just as applicable in the classroom as online. Effective online learning does likely require a greater degree of self-discipline from both students and teachers since class can be open 24 hours a day. The classroom structures Professor Johnson refers to, the “human factors,” are as feasible online as in the classroom.
It may be that one cause of Professor Johnson’s concerns are dubious commercial online course providers with a profit motivation who wish to capitalize on the frenzy by preying on online and other public education with scant regard for the scrupulous requirements of effective education.
A credible and effective online learning course system requires a careful selection of participants and rigorous oversight by knowledgeable, expert personnel trained in online delivery of education. Absent this, Professor Johnson certainly makes a good point that the churning of online students for profit will lead to “a more poorly educated citizenry.”
The good professor is concerned, as we all should be, that the assertions of online learning as the remedy for education are spurious propaganda by unscrupulous, self-serving profiteers.