I’m working tonight on revising something for publication, so just a quick note from Derek Bok, who writes that “For-profit, on-line education aimed at unwary audiences carries a grave risk of exploiting students. . . The promise of the new educational technology lies in developing highly interactive classes that make good uses of simulations, case-method discussions, games, and other means of provoking discussion among students and instructors. But this is the most expensive type of distance education and will probably cost as least as much as much as conventional campus courses. The way to make big money with the Internet is to attract large audiences with polished lectures by well-known figures, supplemented by attractive visuals and carefully crafted materials, but with a minimum of feedback and interactivity in order to keep down marginal costs and take full advantage of economies of scale. The courses that result may seem attractive, but they will fall far short of achieving the full potential of the new technology” (170-171). Yet again, while I might wish for a less measured and careful tone from Bok — he does not equivocate, but I feel his topic demands more passion than he gives it — I cannot help but agree. One might combine the arguments of Bok and C. Paul Olson to point out that education is by nature a labor-intensive process, and our contemporary trend of replacing labor-intensive processes with capital-intensive processes (such as those associated with the computer) simply cannot be applied to all things.
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