As Colleges Focus on Quality in Online Learning, Advocates Ask: What About In-Person Courses? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

March 6, 2023

As colleges’ online catalogs grow, so too has the push to develop standards of quality for those courses. But are in-person classes getting the same attention?

If you ask many online-education advocates, the answer is “no.” While decades of research and the pandemic-spurred expansion of online learning have helped demystify it and build confidence in its efficacy, these advocates say the misconception lingers that remote education is inherently lower in quality than instruction in the classroom. And that stigma, they say, puts a magnifying glass to online ed, while largely leaving in-person classes to business as usual.

“To think through all of our college experiences, we have all been in large lecture classes” with minimal to no contact with a professor, said Julie Uranis, senior vice president for online and strategic initiatives at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. In other words, an in-person class doesn’t necessarily guarantee more student engagement and instructor support. “But for some reason, that bar is higher for online.”

The solution, advocates say, is for colleges to adopt standards and policies that set consistent expectations for quality across all courses, whether they’re remote or in a classroom. And there are numerous institutions already working to do just that — from crafting universal frameworks and syllabus templates to revamping their trainings and faculty observations.

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