- Speaking at a Monday event sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California, University of California President Janet Napolitano delivered biting criticism of online education.
- The former Obama cabinet member stated that online learning isn't the simple, "silver bullet" approach it has been painted as, citing its cost and the fact that not everyone can learn that way. She added that it is just another "tool for the toolbox."
- The remarks counter efforts by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has made significant pushes for the state's higher education institutions to implement his (perhaps unrealistic) vision of online learning. Notably, his efforts have resulted in such situations as the failed San Jose State/Udacity partnership.
Napolitano's remarks may come as salt in Jerry Brown's wounds. Still, her words reflect a common sense approach to online learning: Learning online, without face-to-face interaction with an instructor, really doesn't work for everyone. Not everyone learns the same way. The approach really doesn't even work for all courses, either, because it's hard to effectively do public speaking, for example, via a remote connection. And as far as remedial learning goes, Napolitano argues that the students who need that attention are probably better served by a professor in person.
Aside from that concern, doing online right — making sure the infrastructure and platforms are up to par, etc. — is a potentially costly investment that does carry a greater risk than proponents with lofty goals may be willing to admit. Just ask San Jose State.