With online education continuing to explode, some people feel the days of traditional colleges are numbered. One online educator even said that traditional colleges are becoming a place vagabond youths go to congregate.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Below are the reasons I think traditional colleges will continue to survive, thrive, and play big roles in society.
1. Going away to college is like a rite of passage. There is nothing like that feeling of an 18 year old moving away from mom and dad for the first time. It connotes freedom. It is Freedom from being told what to do all the time. Why traditional colleges are more expensive than distance learning colleges, I would not have given up the chance at this freedom for a million dollars.
As a parent, I cannot fathom not letting my children have this same freedom and experience. It is an experience I so much enjoyed. It is only natural that I would want this freedom and experience for my beloved children.
2. Traditional colleges offer social networking that online education cannot. It is said it’s not often what you learn in college that matters, it is who you sit next to in class. Some of the people you sit next to in class will become lifelong friends and business associates.
This became more evident to me during the 2007 NCAA Basketball Championship. If you are a college basketball fan, you know the University of Florida won back to back college basketball championship in 2006 and 2007. This was made possible by a group of young men (Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah) who became teammates and roommates.
These young men while at the University of Florida became special friends. Through this friendship, they bonded together and agreed to try to achieve something that was only done once (win back to back NCAA College Basketball Championship) since 1973. The other school that did it since 1973 is Duke University. Needless to say, they achieved this goal and will forever go down in the history of college basketball together.
Can online education provide such enabling environment?
I think NOT!
3. Traditional colleges have become icons in the communities they are located in. Some of these communities have come to love and identify with their schools.
Take Gainesville, Florida for example. Can you imagine the city of Gainesville, Florida without the University of Florida? The city of Gainesville will suffer untold economic and social hardships without the students of University of Florida.
4. Old habits die hard. There are still people who believe in the traditional way of learning. These people feel being on campus is the best way to learn. They will continue to support and go to traditional schools to do their learning.
5. There are majors that are not amenable to online learning. Until online schools figure out how to do things like chemistry or physics labs online, these type of majors will continue to be the forte of traditional colleges. Sometimes learning just involves getting your hands dirty.
While not exhaustive by any means, these are some of the reasons traditional colleges will continue to survive now and in the future. It is indeed too early to hold their obituary. In fact, such an obituary may never come in our lifetime.