Is closing colleges best way to avoid E-Core Madness?
by Melvyn L Fein
March 31, 2014 12:00 AM | 2059 views | 8 8 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melvyn Fein
Melvyn Fein
Many years ago, when I was a real Yankee as opposed to a “damn Yankee,” we Northerners looked down our noses at Southerners. We understood that people who lived below the Mason-Dixon Line were ill-educated louts who could barely count to 10.

Back then, the quality of Southern schools was, in fact, far lower than that of their Northern counterparts. At both the K-12 and college levels, what was demanded of students and learned by them did not compare favorably with even their mediocre competitors.

But times change. Over the last several decades, the New South has become the engine of national development — which includes its academic institutions. Thus, where the University of Georgia was once a parochial backwater, today it is in the front rank of state universities.

Meanwhile, Kennesaw State University has over the course of 50 years grown from nothing into one of the best regional universities in the land. Starting as a tiny community college nestled in the Georgia pines, it is today a favored destination for even international students.

Yet now, for some unfathomable reason, many Georgia politicians want to turn the clock back. In the name of progress, they are proposing to tear down what has been accomplished and replace it with high-tech ignorance. Intoxicated with promises of a brave new computerized world, they mean to substitute electronic dazzle for genuine knowledge.

Let me explain. Currently on the fast track toward implementation is something called the “e-core.” This is intended to allow lower division students to take their first two years of college strictly online and then transfer to any University System of Georgia school for their junior year.

Standardized online courses are to be taught not by old-line professors but curriculum specialists. Because the materials imparted are to be homogenized, and simplified, all that will be needed to deliver them are the equivalent of teacher’s assistants.

Why is this problematic? Why are my objections something more than sour grapes coming from a professor attempting to save his job? The answer lies in the nature of online teaching.

One of the things we have learned about this medium is it works best with well-prepared students. Yet this is exactly what many recent high school graduates are not. Likely also intimidated by entering college, they are to be thrown into the deep end of the pool, struggling, in isolation, to cope with unfamiliar demands.

On the other hand, at schools like KSU, younger students are allowed a period of orientation. They are initially introduced to the studying, writing and research skills that will be required of them as they proceed into more arduous scholastic territory. With this foundation under them, they are subsequently prepared to succeed.

But what of the e-core learners who arrive on campus with an inferior preparation? When they fail, and they will fail in large numbers, what will be the response? Will the curriculum be further dumbed down to accommodate their needs? And if it is, will they later be prepared to meet the needs of the modern economy?

The politicians want to save money. They assume they can do this by cutting back on brick and mortar institutions. This, however, is penny wise and pound foolish. It saves a few dollars today only to ensure many more will be lost down the line.

This is why we at KSU are adamant in our rejection of the e-core. Our faculty and administrators are on record as nearly unanimously rejecting this demonic innovation. This may sound self-serving, but we believe in higher education and do not wish to see it sacrificed on the altar of false economies.

So I have a modest suggestion. If the politicians want to return to the bad old days of Southern parochialism, why don’t they just shut down the state’s university system entirely? This will save a lot of money in the short run. Come to think of it, closing down the high schools would save much more.

Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 02, 2014
Do your really want to be operated on by a doctor who went to college on-line?
why not
April 05, 2014
Why not, computers are now doing the operation!
April 17, 2014
Actually, I just had a surgery...done by a robot!
April 17, 2014
We aren't talking about having EVERYTHING taught online. Obviously, you have to do some type of internship to learn the hands-on things...but yes, I would see a doctor who learned primarily online. I am sure there would then be a period in which that doctor would have to practice alongside experienced doctors and put in to practice the things he or she learned online. There is no argument here that not ALL skills can be taught online. There are a lot of online nursing programs out there. After they are done with online coursework they do an internship. You have probably had an O.R. Nurse helping with your operation at some point and time that received their degree online.
Another side
April 01, 2014
I see the points of both sides here. However, I have to disagree with the idea that this is somehow "demonic" or ONLY a tactic to save dollars. What about it's ability to reach students who have difficulty getting to a classroom? Those who are poverty stricken with no mode of transportation? Or those who are ill and confined to their homes? Or severely handicapped students? Or, like myself, those who have PTSD and an overwhelming anxiety of social situations. My PC is my socialization. It is where I learn, where I communicate, and essentially where I do most of my "living". Should I not have the same opportunities for a great education that will supply me with adequate income? Or should I be limited only to the small tech schools that offer online classes with careers that pay a mediocre salary at best? Let's assume I choose a career in technology or Web design since I will likely need to work from a home or small office environment. Isn't practicing those skills in the environment in which I will be using them the best way to learn them? If my career path is going to require me to be a self-starter with optimal self-motivation and discipline, shouldn't I start off by having to practice those things in order to achieve my career goal? I'm just throwing this out there...but shouldn't Universities who receive government funding, be using some of those funds to help equip those who are not necessarily able to be "traditional students" for whatever reason?

I also STRONGLY disagree that online students are being "thrown into the deep end of the pool, struggling, in isolation, to cope with unfamiliar demands." In my experience with online learning, I have found that I get much more individual attention and assistance than I ever have in a classroom setting. In an online class, there is no need to worry about being embarrassed or ridiculed for asking for help when something is not clear to me. There is no glaring from my peers when I ask a question and stall class. My instructors have been most helpful and always willing to go that extra mile. I felt more of a "sink or swim" in a traditional classroom setting than I ever did with an online course. I say "to each his own"...but don't deny those who choose the online learning environment over a classroom setting.

Gary Barnes
March 31, 2014
Im a Kennesaw Grad. Ive taken classes on line as well as in the classroom. Classroom experience including the opportunity to personally intereact with the instructor as well as other students is essential to the freshman student. I think the e-core proposal is a bad idea.
Barb Azole
March 31, 2014
a demonic innovation? Wow, that sounds pretty bad. Students getting out of high school today have grown up on the internet. If they can not handle basic courses there and learn to study independently, what makes you think they will do any better in a classroom setting? Shouldn't the parents be somewhat responsible for teaching their children some study and preparation skills? If kids can not get through college on their own, let them look at other career paths that best meet their skill, apptitude or effort level.
why not
March 31, 2014
Yes, it does seem self-serving. Did you not think that conservatives would eventually hit you in the pocket book.
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