J. Reardon1, D. McCorkle1, V. Auruskeviciene2

1Monfort College of Business (UNITED STATES)
2ISM University of Management and Economics (LITHUANIA)
Over the last decade, online course offerings and programs have become very popular for many reasons. In general, research regarding online courses shows significant benefits to the institution, professors, and students. Yet many quietly question the value of such a delivery method. This research reviews the literature with regard to the benefits offered by online education and then discusses at a conceptual level the potential pitfalls.

Detractors of online education suggest that while basic content is deliverable via electronic communication channels, a major part of the University experience is missing: namely socialization. This includes socialization in both the context of peers, institutions and to the respective discipline of study. In addition, a professor’s responsiveness to student’s nonverbal communication can be reduced or eliminated in the online setting. For example, students looking lost or bored, but unwilling to articulate this can be readily identified in a face-to-face setting – whereas this is much more difficult online.

While the potential for a professor to not do his job exists in both in-class and online settings, there are several theoretical/conceptual reasons to suggest that this potential is amplified in the online setting. Primarily, anecdotal evidence suggests that the lack of a Hawthorne effect removes much of the social impetus to excel at teaching. In class settings require that the professor be present before a group of students when teaching – thus there exists a social contract due to this interaction. Professors suffer embarrassment, which tends to be communicated quickly through informal channels to other students and the professor’s peers when the class is not well presented. The same may or may not be true in an online setting.