Technology is often seen as the savior of higher education by reducing costs and increasing access. Not all people agree and disdain the breaking of ancient tradition with venom in their words. To be fair, technology can have either a positive and destructive impact on institutions and learning. Both the pro and anti-technology supporters have strong points of argument. Two common arguments are that technology fosters shallow learning and students are not reflecting on the material.
Argument 1: Technology Fosters Shallow Learning:
Anti-technology adherents find that the use of some technologies leads to shallow learning. Student simply post comments that lack insight-fulness to ensure they are meeting posting requirements every week. The learning model becomes more of mechanical process than a deep and insightful learning experience where students must challenge themselves to learn new things.
The problem is that many traditional faculty are not sure how to use the technology properly and a number of universities are counting posts versus grading the quality of the answers and discussions. Ensuring that engagement is required earlier in the week, multiple substantive interactions are needed, and grading is based upon the quality of the answers will mitigate this problem.
Argument 2: Students Work not Reflective of Readings:
Students can sometimes skip over the text and just learn from the classroom or from their own personal experiences. This can be frustrating for professors that want the student to have sufficient depth and understanding of the theoretical material to formulate a coherent response. Online students sometimes give shallow responses to complex concepts showing a lack of reflection.
The problem exists whether you are teaching an online or on-ground class. Like an on-ground classroom much of it is based upon how the class is designed. If the materials to pass tests, quizzes, and papers can only be found in the book then this will raise the amount of reading required. Randomizing questions, using more reflective papers, and treasure hunting information is beneficial for encouraging more reading.
There are natural differences between online and ground based learning but ultimately each has its own positives and detractors. Online learning is still blooming and formalizing into a standard and effective approach while on-ground learning has also experienced its share of poor performance that has led to slips in international ranking. Higher education is changing because it must to compete. The road may be bumpy but the path is clear; technology is here to stay.