Online is big. Online is cool. Online is hot. The world comes to you through your smartphone, tablet or laptop, right?
So if you’re taking a class or working on a degree, you might ask “Why do we need college campuses?”
Let’s think about it.
Consider: knowledge doesn’t come out of books – it’s created by research, by observation and experimentation, and by groups of people working and communicating. The information generated is scrutinized, argued over, re-tested and refined before it’s distributed to the public and applied in a widespread manner.
Where does much of this happen? If it’s not in commercial labs which have their own agendas driven by profit, it’s done on college campuses. That’s where faculty have the room, resources and teams that it takes to do this job well. And the same faculty pass their research-based knowledge along to students through publication and teaching.
Think of it this way: George Carlin explained why you need a house: “Your house is a place to keep your stuff. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it!”
We need campuses for a similar reason: a place to keep our faculty. In fact, many people would say a campus is just a collection of faculty who have a place to hang out.
And it’s those faculty who build the online courses, record lectures, and who create the media and do all the things necessary to have distance education. An online course isn’t just an online textbook that you read, then check off answers in a test. To have an effective online experience, you need to interact with someone, ask questions and get answers, and you need a way to interact with both people and content.
Campuses are where those faculty and people hang out. Now, in some cases they are adjuncts who aren’t on campus full-time, but behind every program there are real people in real buildings. Someone had to decide what the curriculum and course sequence is going to be in a set of courses that build on each other and help you become expert in your subject. That kind of inventory doesn’t get delivered from Amazon, it gets built by real humans interacting together – and they’re on a campus somewhere.
And let’s not overlook that not everyone is cut out to succeed in distance education. Some of us really struggle when we don’t have other people to associate with and help motivate each other. Not everyone has the discipline or the personal aptitude to study on their own and succeed. That’s simply because people are different. But the campus experience is still an important part of traditional college learning, and it’s still part of the maturing process for many young people. It’s a great experience that many people seek out.
Having a campus is a lot like having a manufacturing plant for any product; you have to build it somewhere. Further, having a campus with faculty can hold some costs down for students. When faculty are paid for their research and campus teaching, then distance courses don’t have to pay the entire salary of each faculty member; if they did, they’d have to cost a lot more.
So campuses are actually handy things to have around; not only do students get something from them, we get to keep a lot of stuff there, and some pretty smart people hang out there.
~ Dr. Al Powell