THE FUTURE OF THE ON-SITE COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCE

March 20, 2020


For the past several years I have been a mentor for a young man from Nashville, Tennessee. I signed up for this task through the organization “We Teach Science”.  It’s an excellent service provided by that group of teaching professionals.  Well, my mentee decided to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as an entering freshman this year.  He is studying Civil Engineering.  Due to the COVID-19 virus, the entire UT system has decided that all students will work online for the remainder of the year.  Graduation will be held online and not in person.  I have no idea as to how this will work but there will be an attempt.

When I called this past Monday to talk to my mentee, I was told that he is packing up; leaving his dorm room and heading back to Nashville to work online.  I had no idea the boarding students would be required to leave campus but it is perfectly logical since students do congregate, work together and socialize everyday-all day.  The advent of the digital age allows everyone to do that with great ease.  You have to have equipment and software but all colleges and universities have that established.   The days of standing in endless lines signing up for your courses is long over.  It’s all done online now. 

The following article is from the USA Today web site.  I’m quoting this in its entirety.

“In the span of roughly two weeks, the American higher education system has transformed. Its future is increasingly uncertain. 

Most classes are now being held online, often for the rest of the semester. Dorms are emptying across the country. Some universities are even postponing or canceling graduation ceremonies scheduled months out. This is all the more surprising given most universities have a reputation for being reticent to change, especially in a short amount of time.

The coronavirus has changed all that. As of Thursday evening, the number of U.S. cases stood at more than 14,200, with 205 deaths

Colleges have tried to react quickly to enact measures that would help to stop the virus’ spread. On America’s campuses, professors and students, many of them international, work in close proximity for long periods of time. Dorm rooms are often shared between multiple individuals, making social distancing next to impossible.

All of those changes could threaten colleges’ existence. Parents and students are demanding refunds for shortened semesters in the dorm. The value and quality of an elite college education is under scrutiny as universities pivot to makeshift online classes.  And its unclear how students will view colleges once the crisis is over and they’re welcomed back on campuses. “

About 2,642,158 students – twelve and one-half (12.5%) percent of all college students – took online courses exclusively, and the other thirteen-point three (13.3%) percent of students combines online studies with traditional courses.  These statistics show that online studies are definitely gaining in popularity.  In other words, they are here to stay. 

If you want to see just what is available and what learning institutions offer online courses, go to the web site “Comprehensive List of All Accredited Online Schools”.  I was amazed at the number of schools providing this great service.  Basically, if a university doesn’t do it now, they will miss out completely in future months and years.  CORVID-19 is accelerating that occurrence greatly.

Now, most of the schools and universities are fully accredited institutions that have been around years and years.  They are not the “Johnny-come-lately” types that take your money and provide a diploma for just signing up.  The course work is real.  Let’s take a look at several.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has spent millions of dollars over the past ten (10) years to attract students and compete with other universities.  New library, new dorm room building, new student center, new medical facilities, new athletic facility, etc.  My mentee’s dorm room looks like something you would find in a Hilton Hotel.  He has three dorm mates, all with their own rooms.  A kitchen. A common area. His own bathroom.  Back in the dark ages when I went to school, I had a room mate and common bath facilities down the hall.  Life has changed and probably for the better.  At any rate, the common thread for administrators has been the necessity of providing all of the facilities and even amenities a student needs or feels he or she needs.

There are some courses that cannot be taught online.  All courses that require labs.  Students in pre-med or medical schools where the subject matter must be or should be presented by an instructor.  I have questions about the accessibility of instructors from a question and answer standpoint.  In-class instruction gives you immediate access whereas online not always does.  In the future, and as time go by, these questions and difficulties will be worked out.

CONCLUSIONS:  COVID-19 is only accelerating the online trend.  I do suspect the future will allow most students to take online courses which will somewhat obsolete certain facilities now available to students.  This should bring down the cost of education and hopefully lessen the huge student loan situation that now exists.  Over a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) in student loans are now outstanding.  At some point, that bubble with burst.

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