Quality over accessibility

There is no need for the University to rush expanding online classes.

As the University of Minnesota continues to expand online learning, students are cautious about how much of their education happens on the screen.

The Minnesota Daily reported last week that while online course enrollment has been steadily rising, only about 13 percent of students said they prefer online classes to the traditional face-to-face environment, according to a 2012 survey from the University’s Office of Information Technology. The survey also showed faculty members prefer the virtual classroom at an even lower rate, about 7 percent.

Students told the Daily a lack of communication and face-to-face interaction makes online education more difficult. One student said that the instructor’s expectations were unclear, and another suggested that students don’t feel free to ask questions while online.

The benefits of online education are easy enough to spot. It saves classroom space, and more students can enroll. Busy students and those who live off-campus can fit online classes into their schedules much more easily. One student enrolled at the University living in the United Arab Emirates is able to finish his degree because of online education, the Daily reported.

While accessibility and convenience are worthy goals for education, they should always be secondary to overall quality. University administrators must take students’ reservations seriously and address the issues they raise.

The University should take a closer look at the overall quality of the classes it offers before dedicating any more resources to the expansion of online classes. An accessible education has little value if students aren’t truly learning.