How to Overcome Resistance to Online Education in Higher Ed
Distance education and online education are not new. An early distance learning system was developed by Sir Isaac Pitman in the 1840s. The University of London’s External Programme was chartered by Queen Victoria in 1858, making it one of the earliest such programs to offer degrees through distance learning. Yet despite such prestigious beginnings, many educators still view distance learning as inferior to face-to-face classroom instruction even though evidence-based studies indicate that students who take classes online actually have a higher completion and success rate than students in traditional brick and mortar classrooms.
Prejudice against degrees acquired through distance education can be found at many levels among educators. A principal at a small, country school remarked of an interviewee, “I just can’t get past the idea that she got her degree online from University of Phoenix.” In another school, a teacher declared that if he had to use computers to teach, he just would not teach at all.
Younger staff members who have grown up with technology might more willing to teach online than older members. One of the biggest obstacles facing introduction of edtech or distance learning is teacher fear that it will be difficult. The other is the feeling that online or distance learning is inferior to classroom teaching. There are ways, however, to work past teacher fears about using technology, as well as the stigma attached to distance learning.
The following steps can help pave the way for both edtech and distance learning in your school:
- Develop clear goals for your technology program.
- Get well respected, tenured faculty on-board with your ideas
- Provide a user-friendly learning media system
- Provide relevant, user-friendly hardware and software
- Emphasize saving teacher time and increasing learning efficacy, as well as easy record keeping
- Attach meaningful monetary rewards to teaching online
- Demonstrate how hands-on skills can be taught and critiqued using technology
- Provide relevant, precise educator training
- Provide a knowledgeable, well-trained technical support team that is willing to patiently assist teachers
- Show how peer-to-peer discussion and learning can be incorporated in online learning
- Provide statistics concerning success rates for online learning
Of these various techniques, the two most important are to have specific goals, and to persuade respected, leading teachers as early adopters.
Clear goals will help drive the kind of hardware, software, and Internet connection you select for your school. The infrastructure necessary to reach homebound students, for example, will be more complex than the hardware and software needed for a reading program.
Gaining the enthusiastic backing of a lead teacher will go a long way toward gaining the interest of your older or more reluctant faculty members. When you have your lead instructors backing, it becomes much easier to engage the interest of teachers who are concerned about their own ability to use the equipment.
While it is a good idea to provide statistical evidence that online or distance learning can be effective, it is one of the least effective tools available to you. Persuading educators that the tools provided for online learning will be beneficial to them will have greater weight. Emphasize reduction of workload with video recording lectures or automatically graded exams, while reassuring them that their input and support will still be important to students and that they are a valuable part of the process.