On online courses
Just a couple of years ago, simply having a website and giving students email addresses was the bleeding edge of technology. If your syllabus was online and you could download one of your readings instead of photocopying it, then you may as well have been Bill Gates.
We have grown up alongside the Internet, and we were there at the birth of its half-brother, the Smartphone. Connective technology has always been there for us. We are more connected to our peers and the outside world than any generation has ever been before. We do not simply consume media; we now produce it. We are engaged in conversations and dialogue instead of being passive listeners. For us, all media is collaborative, and any model besides that seems increasingly stodgy and outdated.
How do we change the college experience to both accommodate and capitalize on our new way of thinking and communicating? The obvious answer for anyone over 30, though generally less than 50, is to offer more online courses. I can tell you how the meetings go wherein they decide to do so, too. Generally, somebody goes "it's class, and it's online, these kids will eat it up," and then all the people around the table nod along. Unfortunately, that's not how our generation works. Those pushing online classes don't quite "get it."
An online class is not the only place to find knowledge or information on the Internet. Not only is it not a unique source of this product that is "learning," but also, it is not even the best source. Free, up-to-the-second, and detailed information is available in every corner of the Internet. On top of that, this information is not limited to the perspective or awareness of one single instructor, but rather it can be from sources as diverse as world-renowned experts, or the wisdom of the crowd. I can make my own curriculum with my own syllabus, for free, and not be beholden to an instructor.
Online courses are the Blu-rays of technology in academia. Blu-ray discs are a dying form of media that acted as a stopgap while we transitioned from recorded media to streaming media. Online courses are simply a temporary stop in the progressive march of technology into academia.
Rather than simply playing Communications 1010: The Video Game, which is what online courses seem like, we should be focusing on how to integrate technology into the classroom. The technology I mentioned before is all connective technology for a reason. Our generation doesn't want to use technology for technology's sake; we want to use it to connect to others. Removing the others from the equation and turning learning into a mechanical process does not bring us forward; it brings us backwards.
Professors should encourage students to use collaborative technologies to create amazing things together. Courses should require students to use our creative juices and adapt technology to serve a purpose. We are a generation of artists, hackers and mixers. We want to take the tools that are out there, and use them to solve a problem. Let's find creative ways to use technology instead of taking the easy way out. If we do this right and pull it off, we can become a leading institution for generations to come.