Sunday, August 7, 2011

Only a paper moon?

braid by kathleenie, on FlickrWe've had at least 15 years of net-based learning in universities and the numbers of online students rises year by year. Today most campus courses rely on the net for distribution of course material, discussion, assignments and information and the university's accounting, HR and other administrative routines are all computerised. So we should be able to say that technology affects every process in higher education.

However, despite the omnipresence of technology in academia it is still not fully accepted. This is stated most clearly in an excellent article in Campus Technology, Ad Hockery and the Potemkin Effect in Higher Ed IT. It's based on a presentation given by Kenneth C.Green at the recent Campus Technology 2011 conference. Universities today offer a host of online courses but often with very little support for teachers or students and that's why Waters refers to the Potemkin effect - courses are just flat facades with nothing behind them. Little wonder then that the drop-out rate is high.

The problem is often that top management have little understanding of how technology impacts education  and tend to delegate responsibility for online learning to IT managers, believing still that this is purely a technology issue and not a pedagogical one. Teachers do their best to support each other and often provide student support over and above the call of duty but in many universities there are far too many such ad hoc solutions that cover up for the lack of an overall strategic approach. Universities need to build an infrastructure behind the facade.

"The faculty need support," he said. "They're not ancillary to this conversation but central to it. And we need to communicate with presidents and provosts about the value of that support--about how critical it is, that it's part of the infrastructure--so we don't have Potemkin campuses." 

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licenseby kathleenie 

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