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Technology will prevail in higher education

January 16, 2013
The Town Crier

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to ask this question. It is an important one, because so much activity in our society has its basis in education. What is distance education? Today, distance education centers on obtaining degrees online. Many brick and mortar schools have started offering both online and hybrid programs. Then there are the all distance ed programs. The hybrid programs combine traditional in-person classroom learning with distance learning in order to reduce the in-person course load in areas like social science and humanities. A hybrid program is necessary in areas such as hard sciences.

I am a state licensed substitute teacher and I teach part time for the Austintown Local Schools. I had a conversation about online education with one of the regular faculty at Austintown Middle School. I found myself saying, almost involuntarily, that there is no reason to set foot inside a classroom after high school. Maybe that is out on the edge of higher educational theory, but I don't believe it to be too far from the truth.

There are constant scandals and violence in traditional campus communities, not to mention the problem of finding a parking spot. Online and hybrid programs do have issues, but they are less problematic than traditional brick-and-mortar four-year and graduate programs. Take one small example, that of the near monopoly of the campus bookstore. In online programs the books are usually provided, or the student can shop competing sources on the Internet, or at brick-and-mortar book stores. Most of these nontraditional programs have regional accreditation or other accreditation equivalent to the traditional schools.

There are many types of distance ed. One can do independent reading and take tests online. There is asynchronous time-delayed interaction, then there is synchronous real-time interaction. Are you out of the running if you get a distance ed degree? In a graduate program I am taking now at American Military University, online graduates are regularly awarded top echelon federal fellowships. The list of corporations and government agencies that employ graduates from nontraditional distance schools is a long one. Distance education is not without its problems, but I think we will gradually see the dust gathering on traditional four-year brick-and-mortar academe. Perhaps traditional academe will go the route of old-style shopping mall book and record stores - they will subside in the wake of technology.

Just so that no traditional four-year brick-and-mortar administrator or professor wants to say I am not worth my salt, I include this info on my background. I teach political science online for Trumbull Business College and am an instructor for the Youngstown State University Metro College in Boardman. I am a veteran and an author or co-author of six books found in libraries in the area, and libraries and institutes around the world. I have traditional and distance degrees in a variety of subjects from accredited institutions up to a doctoral degree in history from Lacrosse University.

Patrick Pacalo




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