The problem that higher education faced when computers and networks became ubiquitous on campuses was that we educators had set ourselves up for a fall: We claimed that the only important learning occurred in the classroom – We said that we educators “delivered” education – Such “delivery” was based merely on books and talking. We had, unwittingly, made it sound unrealistically simple. As a result, those entrepreneurial people who set up distance learning opportunities could use this simplistic description of learning and seem to set up legitimate competing offerings. If it’s only about talking and reading, then why do we need a campus? But, in reality, learning is not that simple; our rhetoric about teaching and learning had just made it seem so. Learning is not content, we now know, and learning is not delivery of content.
The reality always was that the classroom is only a part of the learning spectrum on a campus. Sports, dorm life, social life, internships, service learning, cultural opportunities, volunteer work, field work, study groups, writing labs, office hours, chance meetings on campus, the general quality of conversation, life-long friendships, participation in a learned community, models of research, the campus newspaper, counseling, and on and on–all the ways that the full human develops on a campus, none of which is “delivered” but all of which is experienced.
What, in the end, is the change? The gradual shift is toward using the full resources of the campus and away from classroom-centric thinking. The shift is away from learning autonomously to learning collaboratively. The shift is toward all courses requiring more writing. And the shift is toward students addressing problems or cases or field studies or experiments that are not scaffolded by their teachers.