The fall of the classroom

A couple years ago, I was taking an English class that focused on the topic of debt. The class was full of dire, heavy conversations ranging from paying off credit cards to students leaving school with unbelievable amounts of debt from their
student loans.

Since it was a class full of students, it’s not a surprise that student debt and the future of students became big topics. I’m not going to lie, the class definitely gave me some anxiety—it’s scary to realize how little light there might be at the end of the tunnel for those of us looking to get degrees. When we discussed the future of education and teaching, I was especially terrified.

On a tangent during one of my classes this term, my professor talked to us about how he’s been urged to move his class online. Why? Because it seems like education is headed toward an electronic format. I hope, in my heart of hearts, that this is not inevitable because my goal is to become a college professor after graduate school.

You might be asking, what’s so terrible about online classes? Wouldn’t that be easier at this point? I’m sure you could think of a whole lot of pros for classes to be completely online, but let me tell you why I personally think that it’s bad news.

Let’s say that you’re a student and you’re about to graduate at the end of the year. At this point you’ve done a bit of research on the availability of jobs in your field of study or your area of interest. Maybe your future looks pretty bright. Perhaps people who are going into your line of work are in high demand.

Now imagine that your chances of getting a job just dropped by, say, 75 to 80 percent. Pretty scary, right? That’s essentially what moving education to an online format would do for those of us wanting to teach.

I can tell you right now that a plethora of English majors are out there looking for teaching positions already, so it’s hard enough for us to make it to where we want to go. Now you might be wondering why moving education to an online format would reduce the availability of jobs for prospective teachers.

Today’s society, economy and business world is all about efficiency and money, especially saving money—something that corporations love to do. Believe it or not, schools nowadays are corporations. Big surprise, right? If education was streamlined and made to exist purely as an Internet-accessible program, think of all the professors that these corporations would be able to stop paying. Instructors wouldn’t just be moving their classes online—that wouldn’t be efficient. Why have so many teachers teaching different segments of classes when one professor could do it all?

It’s more likely that the “best of the best” would be selected to design online courses which would then be made accessible to people around the entire world. Is it starting to piece itself together now? People who have dedicated their lives to teaching would be left jobless because they would become just one more person to pay; one more person making a perfect system inefficient. They would ultimately become useless to these corporations.

If we all stayed at home on our laptops and desktops to go through each of our classes, think about how that might affect other businesses as well. One big example comes to mind: public transit. I don’t have an exact statistic, but I imagine a significant portion of TriMet’s riders are students. If we all stopped taking public transportation to school, how much money would TriMet lose, and how many people would they have to let go? This is just a hypothesis, but I think the domino effect is very possible.

But to get back on topic, I’ve heard concerns from professors about this transition. I’ve had professors who have been urged to take their classes and turn them into hybrid courses so that they could transition to fully online classes in the future. And I’ve heard too often that, “This is the way they’re moving.” Again, I really hope not, for my sake and for the sake of others who want to go into teaching.

Technology has rapidly been replacing human interaction. The “there’s an app for that” statement is becoming very real. But I, for one, would draw the line at education. Too many people who have given their lives to teaching would be cast aside. Getting rid of the real classroom has a possibility of being terribly detrimental to the future.