Online courses must improve for teachers

Universities are offering more and more online courses, despite widespread concern over their effectiveness.

A major survey of public colleges and universities released last month by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that 70 percent of faculty members describe online courses as inferior or somewhat inferior to classroom instruction when it comes to learning.

Perhaps some teachers feel that classroom interaction is an invaluable part of education. There are also the prevalent beliefs that online courses are easier for students and highly susceptible to cheating. However, bias toward face-to-face education cannot fully explain these high numbers.

The survey found that 48 percent of professors with online teaching experience believe online courses aren’t up to par for educating students. The people who teach the courses are the best judges of their effectiveness, so it is worrisome that nearly half of the teachers are unsatisfied.

Universities need to address these concerns and work with faculty to increase the quality of online courses. As more students rely on these courses for their education, it becomes more critical that they be held to the same standard as traditional classes.

Not only are online courses seen as inferior, they are also harder to put together, as 64 percent of faculty members surveyed believe teaching an online course takes somewhat more or a lot more effort.

Many professors are not computer savvy, so universities should provide them with more tools to convert their lesson plans to an online format. If teachers don’t like teaching online, it will prove difficult to increase the quality of the courses.

Despite faculty dissatisfaction, online courses are here to stay. They allow for greater access and are in high demand among college students. They are becoming established in universities, and the survey found that over 36 percent of faculty members have taught or developed an online course.

USF offers a variety of online courses and even several undergraduate and graduate degrees that can be completed partly or entirely online, ranging from a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology to a Master of Science in Nursing.

If more students are relying largely – or even wholly – on an online program to obtain their degree, then universities must put more work into online education to ensure they can reach the standards expected by faculty and students.