Kansas lawmakers say online college is only worth half of an in-person education

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College education delivered online is worth half of what you traditionally earn in person.

This is, it seems, the opinion of Republican lawmakers in Kansas who have put forward a proposal requiring a 50% reimbursement of tuition fees paid last spring and last fall for online courses, when the colleges have turned to distance learning programs to fight Covid-19.

Since then, sentiment regarding online courses has been incredibly bad and shockingly consistent across all platforms and all levels of education. People hate it. Recent university graduates fear their degrees may be reduced or devalued as “pandemic degrees”. And, based on the number of new college entrants, a significant number of potential students decided that online college, even out of necessity, was not what they wanted and was staying at home.

Frankly, they are right.

Over the past few weeks, two iconic stories of the current existence of online universities have surfaced.

The New York Post has a story about a professor who completed a full two hour lecture to his class online using Zoom, while being completely silent. At the end of January, a student in an online course in Canada discovered that his teacher had died the previous year. The school said there was a note in the program. But the class continued online, dead teacher and everything.

Let’s just say these are not great examples of quality education. While we’re at it, also agree that none of these would have been possible in a live classroom and in person. Someone would have noticed a deceased speaker.

Whether you find these examples funny or sad, they – and the countless examples like them – undoubtedly devalue the perceived quality of online learning. They, and the truly terrible experiences of teachers and students in online learning, poke fun at the pundits and investors who spent a decade insisting that online programs were as good or better than in-person. . They are not and never have been. And the growing public awareness of their shortcomings was not just predictable, it was predicted.

Last March, I explained why this Covid-19-induced experiment in mass online education “isn’t going to go well.” I said teachers would be shocked at the lack of engagement, clunky technology, the spike in cheating, and schools would learn that online courses cost significantly more than in-person options, largely because of the for-profit companies that sell and manage them.

Even so, and whether it becomes a policy or not, the refunds offered in Kansas are significantly more important to the future of the college than any embarrassing online learning predictions or blunders. That’s because in Kansas, heads of state are deliberately establishing a policy that devalues ​​online learning as a price, being clear that it’s actually worth less. Half as much, to be precise.

It is devastating because higher education exists on a system of perceived values. Harvard may charge more because people think it’s worth more, that the return value in career and prestige is higher than the other options. If states, schools, or the public think online programs are inferior, they will be. This, in turn, will depress prices, demand and perceived value, thus reinforcing a race to the bottom of prices, perception and quality.

If that happens, when it does, it will be a disaster for the multi-billion dollar industry that packages and sells online courses as well as the schools that increasingly exist on online programs. This is true because, as mentioned, online programs don’t cost less to run. In fact, well done at all, they often cost more. If their prices go down, if the schools can’t charge the same for them, as is offered in Kansas, well, that’s a Kansas-sized problem. Probably bigger.

And why do Kansas lawmakers think people who have taken online courses should only pay half the tuition for regular courses?

The sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Sean Tarwater, did not respond to a request for comment, but was quoted in the local newspaper as saying, “I have spoken to many parents who tell me that their children are not. learn, that many of them watch their children cheat on their final exams because they take it together.

Children don’t learn. Cheating is out of control. Again, agreeing with the refund policy or not, he is correct on both points.

Even before Kansas lawmakers decided to try to dismiss online universities over fears of quality, the students themselves sued the universities, alleging that “any degree awarded on the basis of online courses … will be decreased for the rest of [the students’] lives. ”And that“ online education is not the same courses taught in person. ”Many of these lawsuits have been settled, most with generous reimbursements, which implies that the colleges themselves recognize – or at least don’t want to dispute – that online education is “not proportional” to teaching and learning in person.

Teachers and students have already understood this. If schools give up comedy, and state budget writers also start doing so, the game is over. And, as already predicted, it will not end well.


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