Many students didn't like the change and didn't like paying full tuition for a watered-down learning experience. Lawsuits were filed. I myself was skeptical about the quality of online instruction.
However, I am teaching my second class as an adjunct professor using Zoom, and Zoom works great for me. I can see my students on my computer screen and can talk to them directly, just as if we all were in the same room. To my surprise, I can teach via Zoom with no loss of quality.
In fact, I am beginning to think COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise for American higher education. Here's why I take that view.
First, the latest generation of distance-learning technology (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) closes the gap between distance learning and live instruction. Colleges now have a good strategy for dealing with this pandemic and any future pandemic.
Second, COVID-19 has caused many college students to skip the dorm experience, and this shift has been a wakeup call to colleges that went on dormitory-building sprees. The change also put the brake on privately-financed, so-called luxury student housing. Privately and publicly financed student housing was out of control. All across the United States, universities are now surrounded by massive, block-housing units, which are a dispiriting blight on the landscape.
Now that students are shying away from multiple-occupancy apartments and dorms, this speculative overbuilding has slowed down. That is a very good thing.
Third, the massive shift of public universities to online learning has undercut the for-profit college industry, and that is also a good thing. The for-profits distinguished themselves by offering online education for working adults who could not attend classes on college campuses. Often the quality of for-profit instruction was inferior, and for-profit colleges were almost always a lot more expensive than public colleges.
Now that the public colleges and universities have embraced distance learning, there is absolutely no reason for someone to enroll in the University of Phoenix or any other for-profit school that offers online instruction. The for-profits are losing students and revenues, which (I hope) will force them to shut down.
Finally, COVID-19 will stop the arms race among colleges to offer expensive recreational facilities, which have become a public embarrassment. LSU's "Lazy River" seemed like a cutting-edge innovation when it was built, but what college would install one now?
COVID-19 will force many small liberal arts colleges to close, which is unfortunate. But this country has too many colleges, and we are long overdue for a pruning process.
American universities are discovering that they can offer instruction in a distance-learning format, and those fancy recreational facilities and "luxury" student dorms are not essential. Maybe high-quality online learning will help higher education can get back to its real mission--which is to offer worthwhile educational experiences that prepare young people to become intelligent, civic-minded, productive citizens. Wouldn't that be a good thing?
|What? No Lazy River?|
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