The article excerpted below from the New York Times is one of the few to demonstrate an understanding of the access and "participation" context facing a growing percentage of students enrolled in the nation's nonprofit colleges and universities. The article is effective, in part, because it quotes traditional higher education's rear guard to demonstrate the irony inherent in focusing on the institution as arbiter of learning delivery and quality at the expense of focusing on student access and success.
Classroom of the Future Is Virtually Anywhere
Joseph Berger, New York Times, October 31, 2007
The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here. There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume. In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers. Those students, mostly 30-ish middle managers and professionals trying to enhance their skills, cannot be with her in a Penn State classroom at a set time. One woman is an Air Force pilot flying missions over Afghanistan; other global travelers filed comments last week from Tokyo, Athens, São Paulo and Copenhagen. Dr. Duck cannot regularly be at Penn State, largely because of her three children. Yet she and other instructors will help the students acquire standard M.B.A.’s next August at a total cost of $52,000, with each side having barely stepped into a traditional classroom. ,,,
Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers wonders what will happen, should campuses go exuberantly online, to the intangibles — the late-night bull sessions, the serendipitous strolls with professors, the chance to feel one’s oats in student government? And what will one more switch to electronic conversation do to our need for intimate human connections, he asks? Andrew Delbanco, the Columbia humanities professor, said flatly that it would be impossible to put his seminar on war and culture online because “the energy and spontaneity of discussion among people sitting together in a small room cannot be replicated by electronic exchanges.” His statement, not surprisingly, came in an e-mail message. For we live, for better or worse, in a harried world where people spend a good part of their lives on airplanes, where professionals are obliged to upgrade skills, where friends would rather chat via the screen of e-mail than face to face.
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