Liberal arts colleges debate the value of online learning

Posted: May 2nd, 2018

Some small, private, liberal arts colleges are hesitant about establishing online learning programs. Citing financial stability, satisfaction with student diversity and a faculty insistence on in-person instruction, institutions like Carleton College are considering the utility of digital learning, according to a story published in EdSurge.

Carleton officials have been willing to listen to online learning opponents, but also consider how online programs may impact student engagement to force the issue on in-person classroom learning, versus providing a limited online option. This contrasts with DeSales University, which expanded online learning options after seeing significant enrollment in blended and exclusively online courses in limited offerings.

Students opting for summer and winter online courses at other institutions, DeSales officials said, was also a factor in adding online options to keep tuition revenue and ensure instructional quality for students.

Harvard University is offering a data science professional certification through its edX online platform, a credential that Business Insider calls a lead to one of the best jobs in America. Online certification and degree programs are the competition for traditional on-campuses degree programs, and for small, private institutions that believe their academic stock is solid right now, there's every indication that it may not be in just a few years as students continue to look for quicker, cheaper and more accessible alternatives to traditional programs.

There is a legitimate concern among academic traditionalists about the value of in-person instruction and engagement, especially for underrepresented student groups who need more academic support and intervention. But for an increasing number of learners, especially working adults, access and ease are greater assets than support, resulting in an effort by many traditional campuses to play catch-up, such as Purdue University buying for-profit Kaplan University for its online programs.

Source: Jarrett Carter