While Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, attract learners to low-cost online college learning, and colleges scramble to offer the latest technology to their students, brick-and-mortar colleges still offer students tangible benefits for living and working in the real world. And corporate training companies are focusing on live, customized on-site training courses now as well.
Some classes can easily be taught and distributed online, and that can decrease a college’s operating costs, as well as provide tuition savings for students. However, Dr. Scott D. Miller, president of Bethany College, a small, liberal arts college, feels that “one distinguishing factor for the small college is its holistic approach to education, which offers a positive response to the growth of online institutions. No computer can replace the advising and mentoring found at Bethany and other quality liberal arts institutions.”
He believes that “most campuses today are expected to be more than academic institutions. They are, in fact, academies for learning life skills in a global society. This will accelerate. . .” he wrote in a 2014 HuffingtonPost article.
While students can often teach themselves through online courses, they stand to benefit from not only their professors’ expertise in person, but also their universities’ experiential learning, research, and other hands-on opportunities that prepare them for life after graduation. Their professors should become mentors that guide them in learning the techniques and technologies that they will need in the job marketplace.
College students still need face-to-face communication with their professors, and universities would do well to keep themselves grounded and focused. It is vital that colleges offer their students the latest in technology and instruction in it, but they should also encourage instructors and counselors to be the mentors their students need to successfully negotiate finding and keeping jobs in their fields.
The networking and relationship building that the traditional university can offer students is an important selling point for any college. Whether or not the computer science department has the most funding of any in the country is not necessarily as relevant as whether its teachers will sit next to a student and teach her to code for the generation and then provide follow-up support as she tries to build her own technological creations.