Effective Living > Technology > Online Education

Summary. The following document offers a commentary by Gregory Johnson about how online education will change how traditional educational institutions operate.

About 8 years ago, in 2003, I established an online university for distance education and called it Life University. I appointed myself as the Dean of the institution.

I was partnering as an affiliate with those offering distance education at the time, and re-branding those online solutions in a consolidated unified format with enhanced academic support and services. To my knowledge, there was nothing else like it. I was offering hundreds of online courses including Microsoft technical certification preparation courses. Barnes & Noble University was one of my sources for online courseware. My goal was to offer quality education to everyone regardless of previous academic performance or present financial ability.

Today the old digital campus of Life University is in ruins, but I hope to revive it over the coming months. Life University was an idea ahead of its time, but now I think the time is right to renovate the old online campus. The first department to be restored is the Department of Information Technology — providing support to all our future students, staff, and faculty. Soon other departments will come back online.

A Google search for Life University produces over 600 million results. Because we were the first to popularize the term Life University, our website is still listed among the top 5 sites even though we’ve not done much with it over the past few years.

I’ve received emails from many people recently letting me know that the University of Iowa is now using Lynda.com to provide 900 courses and over 55,000 tutorials on a wide variety of tech topics. To my knowledge, UI isn’t rebranding these and offering them to the general public as I did back in 2003, but I wonder how long it will be before the UI becomes a reseller or developer of online training for distance education and online courses.

If traditional educational institutions are choosing online education over classroom education for their own staff and faculty, what does that say about our belief in the millennia-old model of students sitting in classrooms with teachers?

The University of Iowa was asked the question, “If you could have or offer any educational format to your staff and faculty, what would you choose? What’s the best form of education today?”

The University of Iowa answered that question by (in effect) stating, “Online training is effective, economical, and convenient. It is the preferred way to learn and teach today. This is what we choose.”

Yet, to my knowledge, the University of Iowa is not rapidly developing the online resources to make online education available to their students, the public, and future enrollees. It’s like the auto mechanic who goes to work on a horse and buggy. People look at what you do, not at what you say.

Despite the abundance of online materials, courseware, videos, and training resources, I think ultimately learners want to and need to engage with educators and other learners. It’s free to sail the seven seas, yet we need help and guidance navigating our own course.

For several years, Apple has been developing the Open University in iTunes. I believe that Universities, Colleges, and academic institutions need to take a serious look at ways they can transform to meet the needs and expectations of today’s mobile and online society.

We’re increasingly living in a world that emphasizes open, free, and equal access to all knowledge and information. It’s a culture shift that will undoubtedly change how education is offered.

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Additional InformationBarnes & Nobel University was eventually closed down and converted into Barnes & Noble Book Clubs.