LytleBy Jim Lytle

“Everyone wants progress, but no one wants change.” This statement is as true in higher education as it is everywhere else. I learned it by experience, and I suspect you have too. We do not like change.

The media has made much of the changes in higher education. Foremost among the changes is the adoption of a different delivery system called distance education or online education. Many students may never go to a brick-and-mortar campus to receive their degrees. Rather, they study online. Last year a third of college students—about 6.7 million—took at least one online class.

Few people adopt a middle-of-the-road view of online education. Detractors assert that online delivery methods pose a serious threat to achieving credible degrees. Some are concerned that when learning online, students may not listen to lectures by an authority. They fear that online discussion groups will lead to a pooling of student ignorance. Others fear that this new method seems to be cheap and easy, rather than demanding and rigorous.

There is another opinion group about online education, and I admit to being in it. I see online education as an unparalleled opportunity for colleges and their students, but I didn’t start out in that group. I was a higher education traditionalist. However, a stint as a missionary in Africa began to alter my perspective. By the time I returned to serve again at Baptist Bible College and Seminary, I had concluded that the essential elements in an education could be successfully passed from the college to the student using online education.