A lot of it is stuff that bloggers have been talking about for a long time: don't use a technology unless there's a pedagogical reason for it. Lots of information is available online. Prepping and teaching an online course takes longer. These are all good ideas, and the articles are good, but you get the drift.
But I was fascinated by the commentary by Dalton Conley, vice provost and dean of the social sciences and a professor of sociology at New York University, who is out to sell a book (also not free). His piece is "Steal This Education: Abbie Hoffman said a revolutionary's first duty was to get away with it. Now you can." It's the old Abbie Hoffman "steal this book" argument, although I'm surprised he didn't bring up Matt Damon's speech in Good Will Hunting that says the same thing.
After Conley rehearses the same old, same old about how no one ever changes a lecture in 10 years and how useless it is to lecture in front of a class, he has this to say:
By freeing me from standing before 200 students to teach "Introduction to Sociology" each fall, the new project will allow me to spend some time at our study-abroad site in Florence for a weeklong workshop, then visit our Abu Dhabi campus, and perhaps stop at NYU in Shanghai for a third workshop before heading back to my curates in New York.In short, it's online learning as a rock star tour.
Now what I want to know is this:
1. Does he have a concert rider that prohibits green M&Ms and specifies a pool table backstage at every concert?
2. Who grades all those papers?
3. "Curates"? What is he, the Pope?
4. Who pays for all that travel? NYU must be a rare, blessed island of academe with no money troubles.
More seriously, think about it this way: if teachers are indeed like rock stars where short bursts of impersonal attention will suffice, then maybe he's right. After all, wouldn't that put education on the model of listening to music at home and then going to the occasional concert? Why do people go to concerts, anyway, if they can get the music at home? Isn't it to share an experience? Doesn't the fact that the person is in the room make any difference?
But what if you're one of those students in a large lecture that wants to walk down the stairs and speak to him after class? Do you then say "Wow, I can't wait to ask him this question when he's here on April 25?" Or do you just email him and get a curatorial reply?
[Edited to add: If you're going to do online education and build the university's brand, this would be a good way to do it, I guess. I just took exception to the idea that it was necessarily a better way than being there in person.]