Online education: Faculty and staff duke it out at Duke University

Duke University is now offering online classes to faculty and staff.

Duke University is now offering online classes to faculty and staff.

Although it seems like digital learning is still the new kid on the block, many people find it to be, well, pretty normal. Most Americans believe that within the next few years, taking classes online will be commonplace. And with the surge of online learning opportunities offered near and far, it looks like it already has become widely accepted. In January alone, more than 2.25 million people around the world took online classes with Coursera.

One school, Duke University, decided to try out Coursera’s online classes with its employees. The university wanted to help them gain new skills, explore interests and complete training. But the big question their community is asking is: how far can this go? Administrators are trying to figure out what the new educational norms are going to be when the dust settles.

“Any school that thinks that online learning is the magic bullet that will solve all the problems of education – that’s just plain not true,” President Richard H. Brodhead told DukeToday. “There are things you can learn online, and there are things you can only learn in the company and in relationship with other people. The place that gets it right will be the place that offers the best of online learning combined with the best of face-to-face learning.”

The Duke community weighs in
Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University who teaches an online class, said that he isn’t sure online education will work for everyone. He doubts that most people have the self-discipline to do the work. He also expressed concern that employers won’t be flexible enough to allow workers to take time off for classes.

Other faculty at Duke are using this as an opportunity to see what does and doesn’t work in online education. They want to improve online classes and provide instructors with solutions – like classroom management software – that will make digital teaching more successful.

“Where can we go from here?” asked Cathy Davidson, a Duke professor. “It’s possible for certain kinds of vocations in the future that a college degree will be less important than a constellation of classes, some face-to-face, some online. It is also possible that in the future we’ll be taking ‘refresher’ classes lifelong. Education is more important than ever, in other words. We just don’t know the form it will take in every situation.”

Where do you think education is headed? Do you believe we’re moving towards a blended model that combines digital and traditional learning? Please share your thoughts with us below or on our Facebook page!

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.