Opinion: Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable of Online Learning

On March 7th , InsideHigherEd published an opinion piece  , that featured a professor from a small liberal arts college who talked about his reluctance to teach online. The professor started his op-ed with the following:

“I use the internet for a lot of things. I’ll publish this piece online, and I’ll promote it there, too. I chat with friends, students and colleagues on Twitter. I’ll do my banking online and sometimes even shop there…But I’ll never teach online.”

Besides the obvious irony of utilizing an online medium to voice his opinion hoping to educate and enlighten, he seems to feel that one cannot educate or become enlightened by being online. Instead, students need to be able to interact face-to-face, and on occasion hold class outside in order to get value from their education. This professor believes that he won’t be able to write a good recommendation letter for an online student, rather, the students he sees in person and speaks to on occasion in the grocery store are the ones who are worthy of his prose. Although I don’t disagree on the value of having a collegial relationship with your professor, I believe this can be achieved through a multitude of methods.

For instance, instead of judging learners solely on whether you see them in person or not, students should be judged on the merits of the work they produce in class. he assignments and assessments created in class offer the benchmark on whether a student is worthy of a recommendation letter.

Tenured faculty don’t HAVE to do anything they do not want to, but if they want higher education to survive past the age of disruption, they must be willing to try new things. That is the basis of scientific thought and the pillar in which higher education is built. In reviewing the opinion piece, it feels like the professor approaches education as a “my way or the highway” endeavor. The truth is that the styles and types of education should be as varied and diverse as the students we serve.

Without missing a beat, InsideHigherEd published a rebuttal piece a few days later with opinions from leaders in higher education who embrace the promise of online learning. Afte reading both articles, you’ll understand what makes higher education so wonderful. It allows for thoughtful debate and that permits us to always strive to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. This principle is how higher education can grow and survive for another thousand years!


Luis Alvarado was a FIU Online instructional designer (2015-2018). His expertise includes the areas of emerging technology, learning theories, 21st Century instructional design models, user experience, and the incorporation of diverse modes of media into online courses. Luis applies sound instructional strategies developed through experience gained in higher education and government. He effectively structures course content, provides expert technical support, and advises faculty on the latest learning and interactive multimedia technology.