A recent article in the LA Times cited a survey from California in which 59% of respondents said that increasing the number of online courses would make college education more accessible and affordable.

Well, duh.

Eliminate the teacher and the classroom, and you eliminate most of the cost; make the course available 24/7 on any computer, and it is more convenient for many who work or are otherwise unable to attend classes during normal hours.  Accessible?  Mostly.  Affordable?  Mostly.  Successful? 

Hardly.

Another story reported in the LA Times this week points out what any good teacher could have predicted:  most students do not complete and pass the courses.  Some classes have a drop-out rate as high as 90%.  Many of the classes offered online are remedial in nature, and

Educators elsewhere have said the purely online courses aren’t a good fit for remedial students who may lack the self-discipline, motivation and even technical savvy to pass the classes. They say these students may benefit from more one-on-one attention from instructors.

The teacher is the key.  The textbook, curriculum, or computer program is a less important factor for student success than the instructor.  Location, social/economic background, and past performance are less important than the teacher.  A good teacher can provide the discipline, motivation, and even technical savvy to help the vast majority of students to complete and even pass the course.

So is California considering adding more qualified teachers to overcome the failures of its online program?

Of course not.  They are proposing to add another round of courses–orientation to teach students how to take online courses.  And from the sounds of it, some of those West Coast students need some orientation:

Fewer than half of the [online course] students were enrolled in San Jose State; many were high school students from low-income communities.  A large group were enrolled in the Oakland Military Institute, a college prep academy. Many of them didn’t have access to a computer — a fact that course mentors didn’t learn about until three weeks into the semester…

So the students in a college prep academy didn’t know that they needed a computer to take an online course?  A good teacher could have fixed that misunderstanding in a heartbeat; I guess the hearts of online course monitors beat a little more slowly.

Please note:  the Oakland Military Academy is a highly-regarded charter school in California.  The school should not be judged because of a group of students who foolishly signed up for something not appropriate for them.

And By the Way:  this topic has direct correlation to the situation in our churches today.  From my observation, it seems that more and more people are choosing a do-it-yourself type of Christianity where the pastor, Sunday school teacher, and local congregation play no part.  Not only are they missing out on a key factor in Biblical learning, but they can’t even blame it on accessibility or affordability.

Sadly, I expect that this post-Christian Christianity will have a high drop-out rate, and an even higher failure rate.

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