x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Book review: online college courses like digital music files?

In Higher Education in the Digital Age, William G Bowen weighs the costs and benefits of online higher education.

William G Bowen draws an interesting parallel between online university courses and MP3s. He reminisces about scepticism over the latter, their doubts proven wrong as digital music files sidled their way into daily consciousness, paving the way for the iPod boom. While earning a college diploma online hasn't been met with the same level of success, Bowen's goal is not to dwell on why.

Rather than delve into its origins and cultural impact, Bowen weighs online education on the basis of its costs and effects. His discussion can be summarised in the form of an argument that many universities raise on the issue of implementing online learning into their already packed systems: a successfully run digital course may effectively reduce many of the overheads of traditional classroom learning, but also adds its own running expenses. For today's financially beleaguered student, it's a dilemma.

Aside from his own research, Bowen includes discussions by four of his academic peers that add further insight to the topic. By the time he reaches his conclusion, the concept of a digital-age education does not seem as impossible.

* Noori Passela