LETTER: Education is evolving

In higher education in our Rio Grande Valley, we have utilized online or distance learning for almost 20 years. It was a means to adapt to a changing student body that was more computer savvy, independent, and better at time management than the student in the students in the classroom. Many area colleges created hybrid courses that combined face-to-face and online instruction, which worked well for science courses such as biology that incorporated a laboratory component. Online for the theory/lecture and laboratory for the practical aspects through problem solving, experimentation and application of concepts as well as teacher/student collaboration.

During this time some data were collected on online learning and its efficacy, but then dual enrollment gained in popularity and the focus was changed. All the while faculty clamored for full-time online faculty and for more complete data than had been previously gathered — but to no avail.

With college campuses mostly deserted due to COVID-19, we have suddenly found that there must be alternatives to face-to-face instructional delivery, and these alternatives require expertise for both the instructor and the student — not only in higher ed but down to secondary school level.

Our local colleges/schools requesting bond money for large construction projects may be a thing of the past and a balance of technology with classroom and/or hybrid classes could be our best options for education from preparatory through university level. There are specialists in learning for online, hybrid, and face to face, and these teaching specialties must be acknowledged and nurtured through increased technology learning, increased access to the web, and increased pay to teachers who seek specialization. Teachers at all levels wish to see their students succeed in their studies and also in their lives and communities.

Diane Teter