Students in colleges and school districts across Long Island will learn fully or partially online as more classes migrate to the Internet and faculty increasingly integrate the technology into lesson plans, an expert panel told local educators Thursday.
"We can sit here and say it's not going to happen, but the reality is that it is happening," said Stanley Silverman, director of technology-based learning systems at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, where the forum was held.
More than 150 faculty and administrators from public and private colleges and school districts Islandwide attended the three-hour event sponsored by the Long Island Regional Advisory Council on Higher Education.
Public and private colleges are taking the lead in online learning, but opportunities to blend Web coursework into kindergarten through 12th-grade curricula are underway. The move to online shakes the traditional business model of education and changes the role of teachers and professors, but holds potential for improving learning and democratizing education, Silverman and other experts agreed.
"In the next 10 years, 50 percent of college classes will be online and 25 percent of K to 12 will be online," said panelist David Kuntz, vice president of research and adaptive learning for Knewton, a Manhattan-based start-up technology company that partners with schools to create personalized online educational plans.
Colleges can offer online classes at a lower cost while raising enrollment and including international students, Kuntz said. He noted there's a contentious debate in higher education over whether online learning saves money.
Among the greatest challenges is getting professors to convert to an online model, whether fully online or in a blended class, said Farmingdale State University president Hubert Keen, who was in the audience. He said later that he does not believe online degrees will replace the "brick and mortar" college experience, although the topic is among the most important in higher education. Farmingdale offers more than 200 fully online and blended courses, Keen said.
"It will always be a tool, but most students must go into a classroom, lab or a studio with a professor," he said.
A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center with the Chronicle of Higher Education showed college presidents predicted substantial growth in online courses. Half believe that in the next decade most of their students will take classes online. A separate 2013 Pew Center survey of middle- and secondary-school teachers found digital technologies have become a key part of their curricula.
The shift "democratizes education and information," said panelist Alexandra Pickett, associate director of the SUNY Learning Network, a portal for online courses and degree programs from various campuses in the state system.
Pickett said faculty and administrators must understand the trend as a turning point in education. The network has 4,000 fully online courses and 107 online degree programs, and enrolls more than 100,000 students online annually.
"Yes, nobody has enough time. Yes, there's a lot of noise out there," she said. "But it is our obligation to understand the moment that we are in right now."