The Chronicle of Higher Ed is continuing their uninformed, inaccurate, crusade against online learning, with this interview (probably not a good permanent link–unless you’re a Chronicle subscriber) with historian (and major technophobe) David Noble.
Noble is pushing his usual line, the line that the Chronicle pushes over and over again–that online teaching is worse than face-to-face teaching (and thus doomed to fail) because it includes no “real” interaction.
Yes there is something more authentic about the classroom because it allows for genuine interpersonal interaction. And this is not a controversial issue. Ask anyone to tell you about what they remember about their education and they will talk not about courses or information imparted, but about the people they encountered. Especially the teachers who changed their lives.
Of course, Noble pretends not to know that this is a fundamentally flawed premise, since in almost every case, and certainly in my experience, students report more “genuine interpersonal interaction” and more quality in that interaction online than in a traditional classroom. The interaction can also be (as I have reported on my VKP Poster) deeper, more significant, more challenging intellectually, more open to productive digression, and more persistent (thus available for review, re-thinking, and criticism), than face-to-face interaction.
Noble’s point of view is not only inaccurate, but willfully inaccurate–ignorant, in fact. Not only does he have zero personal experience in this issue (he’s never taught an online class, he’s never taken an online class as a student), but he seems to have never read a single one (of the literally hundreds) of widely available studies of online learning. The No Significant Difference homepage would be a good place for him to start–he’s got a long way to go before he’s ready to move Beyond No Signicant Difference.
Noble does what these critics do so often–he looks at the worst examples of online teaching and compares them to the best examples of f2f teaching.
My CUNY colleague Steve Brier, and my VKP colleague Roy Rosenzweig, do an excellent job of debunking Noble’s nonsense in their review of his recent book in The Nation (thanks to BMCC colleague Barney Pace for the link!).
Noble’s position is useful, in a way, though–it shows us how far we have to go in informing even our fellow academics (although non-academics may actually be far ahead of the trend in this regard!)