In the news this week: the UH,  Chaminade and financially-strapped HPU will be re-starting some in-classroom courses this coming semester. There is certainly some risk in that at this point in the pandemic, but most students are young and healthy and probably can survive a minor COVID infection. The professors? Not so young!

There long have been arguments pro and con about online college education (diploma mills) and the effectiveness of homeschooling.

Now we also have online secondary school classes because of the SARS-CoV2 virus attack. And we’ll still have plenty at the UH and the others, too.

Are any of those as good as the more traditional classroom education?

UH Manoa Prof. Noel Kent of the Ethnic Studies Department wrote a letter-to-the-editor of the Star-Advertiser arguing that he finds online education to be “a very poor substitute” for the face-to-face kind. He’s been teaching that way because the campus has been closed.

Kent says “class discussions and team presentations of projects students have done together build skills they can take with them into the workplace, and as citizens.”

I tend to agree and for those and other reasons have never been a fan of homeschooling. It buries social and team skills and young people need those.

How about college? I’ve done both. My undergraduate work was at two traditional campuses. My law degree was done remotely in Europe under the administration and testing by my base’s Staff Judge Advocate’s office. “Remote” back then meant by mail with the law faculty of LaSalle University.

My second year of undergraduate on-campus study, the dean of students chastised me for arguing too much with my World History professor. But critical discussion is what college should be about. My later remote classes obviously did not offer that. I regret missing out — especially when the topic was arguable law.

But generally, the reviews of today’s online college courses seem to be favorable and the numbers certainly bear out the popularity.

The Journal of Public Affairs Education compared the effectiveness of online learning with in-classroom learning and found that while online education tends to have less sense of instructor control, group dynamics are more favorable.

A 2018 study by Learning House, Inc., showed 85% of students who had previously enrolled in both face-to-face and online courses felt their online experience was either the same or better than the classroom course.  That included 37% who felt it was a superior experience.

The average pass rate for remote learners at law schools taking California’s First Year Student Law Exam was more than twice that of traditional law schools in the state — 34.8% versus 17.1%. Purdue University’s Concord Law School, the first fully online law school in the country, had a first time pass rate of 45%.

Rasmussen College, which has 23 traditional campuses plus online classes, says both online and traditional education have their perks. One option that is increasing in popularity is called “blended learning.”

That has a curriculum designed to offer both in-person learning and online coursework. For example, instructors may require only meeting once weekly for lectures, while assigning projects or other activities for students to complete online on their own time. This allows students to receive some of the positives from face-to-face social learning while still allowing for scheduling flexibility.

Whatever you think, online learning is with us and helps many people hold down jobs while getting a college degree.

I’d be very interested in comments from Hawaii educators.

And about homeschooling. There’s an interesting new paper by Harvard public law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who says homeschool parents “want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to our democracy, determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives.” She claims many promote racial segregation and female subservience and question science. Abusive parents can keep their children at home free from the risk that teachers will report them to child protection services.

I’d be interested in comments from homeschooling parents on that one, too.

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

One reply on “The Yeas And Nays Of Online Schooling”

  1. I got my BS in Computer Information Systems from Western Governors University, 100 percent online, in 2006 when I was 54 years old, and after having worked in my field (print, publishing, graphics, typesetting) for 30 years. I completed the degree in two years.

    My take is that is depends on the student. I am very self-directed, self-propelled, and very much self-taught, always have been. If I want to know how something works, I go try it. I don’t suggest that everyone can do it, I wanted to read a Hawaii hot rod magazine in 1980 and could not find one, so I published one, from scratch.

    Some educators have a hard time with online learning, particularly those who have “always done it this way,” the old way. Other educators, the progressive, curious, classroom leader, cheerleader types of teachers, would simply look at it as an interesting new paradigm and jump in with both feet, trying to extract the most out of this new tool.

    I worked as Education Webmaster at Kamehameha Schools for several years and had plenty of interaction with both types of teachers. I can name the ones who are right now having a blast working with their students online.

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