August 14, 2013
IU charting solid online teaching plan
Indiana University, a school that in many ways is far ahead of the curve in digital technology, has taken a more cautious approach to online education.
That approach isn't exactly being thrown to the wind, but expect a much more active effort from this point forward. According to our report from last week's meeting of the IU trustees, the university will substantially grow its commitment to online education, moving from the classroom to the computer terminal, or in many cases, supplementing the bricks-and-mortar experience via the Internet.
One example cited in the story would be a digital lecture by a professor or guest, followed by a face-to-face classroom discussion of the subject. University officials say they have four main goals, all of them laudable: reach more students; create a quality product; support student success; and turn online education into a major source of revenue.
The potential, after all, is almost limitless. An increasingly wired world and quickly evolving consumer technology that can connect the most remote locations makes online education the surest path to the knowledge that will revolutionize our world. IU's infrastructure and the magic of the Web have the power to bring students, whether they're in the dorms, in Vincennes or Kokomo in Indiana, or even in India or Kenya.
Major questions, though, remain.
Among them, and near the top of the list, are how to monetize this incredible educational tool, how to fully involve faculty in the sharing and passing along of knowledge they've worked hard to acquire, and ultimately, the place of the traditional campus in this brave new digital world.
Marketing also must be addressed. IU, with its many international connections, has a real entry point into markets that dwarf most others, but there are myriad nuts-and-bolts issues and issues of language and standards that must be confronted.
None of the problems will magically solve themselves, and some will be vexing.
The calculated approach IU has adopted -- one that appears to be designed to meet problems rather than stumble over them -- is solid.