Too Much Technology for Western Governors University -- Or Not Enough?
They say all publicity is good publicity.
So, once again, it's good news for e-learning under the headline: Online U Programs Under Fire.
This time the beneficiary of the good publicity is Western Governors University (WGU), a target of online learning critics since its inception. For years, WGU was prominent in the e-learning Field of Dreams derby: What if you build it and no one comes? Well, the students are finally coming, with over 1000 registered at this time. In addition, WGU is now accredited by four regional accrediting agencies. Sounds good. Where's the fire coming from?
Oddly enough, the current source of heat is close to home -- not a national or regional accrediting agency, but the Educator Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) from WGU's home state of Utah. EDAC passes judgment on Teacher Licensure programs in Utah, and so far the committee has not determined that three of WGU's degree programs are acceptable for teacher licensing.
According to a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, WGU officials feel that: "the committee might simply have an aversion to the university's innovative use of technology to replace traditional classroom instruction."
Not so claims a Committee member, citing lack of local learner support instead: "In Utah, we expect a certain amount of clinical supervision ... There just isn't any in their program."
Does this mean a classroom component is irreplaceable? Not necessarily. There are a number of programs offering various forms of supervision at a distance, through the use of technology. Here is an example of a teacher certification program in Special Education and Rehabilitation which includes clinical supervision of teachers in rural areas through interactive audio and video. Supervision and distance education are not incompatible, and face-to-face is not synonymous with "classroom." Technology can enable face-to-face interaction.
Maybe WGU's problem is not too much technology -- but not enough of it. There is a lesson here for Transnational Ed programs as well. There are low-cost ways to foster real-time face-to-face interaction between students and remote faculty without relying solely on travel.