Whether it is because of financial constraints or just personal preference, the number of people taking classes online has been steadily climbing. Though the institutions that provide an online education have been trying hard to make these classes more effective by making extensive use of video and instant feedback, many faculty members are hesitant to participate. However, Mark C. Taylor, chairman of Columbia University’s religion department and writer of “College Crackup and the Online Future”, has high hopes for the future of online education.
According to Taylor, the most effective new system offers “modules”. These modules can be downloaded as either individual lectures or as full, traditional classes. This system allows students to have more control over exactly what they learn, saving them money, breaking down subject barriers, and making for a more interdisciplinary approach to learning. If this system becomes more widespread, teachers would not only teach, but also advise students which modules they should download for their specific goals and needs.
The module system could spell out a brighter future for education, allowing for more cooperation among universities and a broader range of classes to choose from for each student. It could also allow students to gain a high-quality education at a very low price. However, Taylor warns that it might hurt smaller colleges who are unable to afford a program as large or as famous as—for example—Harvard’s, Stanford’s, or MIT’s. On the other hand, he urges that the educational benefits of interdisciplinary, self-tailored learning far outweigh the costs. By providing a larger number of students with wildly new ideas and ways of looking at the world, an educational overhaul like this could, in Taylor’s opinion, help the United States adapt in an era of financial problems and international competition.