info on the 2010 biblioblogger dinner in atlanta

Gibney's Irish Pub

Gibney's Irish Pub, Atlanta, GA

the 2010 biblioblogger gathering in atlanta this year will be held at gibney’s irish pub (map) on sunday night, november 21, 2010, at 6:45 pm. it’s less than a block away from the main sbl hotel, the hyatt regency atlanta, so los angeles bloggers have no excuse. a dinner menu is available here.

if you are a blogger, a reader of blogs, or are even thinking about blogs, and you blog about the bible, bible places, bible translations, ministry, religion, notes about religion, scripture, god, hebrew and technology, hebrew poetry, epigraphy, scribal practices, the church, christendom, nt interpretation, gnostic gospels, the ancient near east, the biblical worldarchaeology, the roman world, ancient world, christian origins, catholics, academia, total depravity, lost, debunking, palaeobabble, obscure english bands no one has ever heard of, stalin, tea, travel, technology and targums, politics and faith, education, higher ed, old stuff, abnormal stuff, random stuff, awesome stuff, clay stuff general musings, the cleverest things on the net relating to all of the above, or anything else, then you should be at gibney’s in atlanta on sunday, nov. 21 at 6:45 pm. come and go as you’d like, but that’s where we’ll be.

don’t miss the special guest appearance by all 80 of raphael golb’s aliases. and remember, if anyone asks, we’re all jeffrey gibson. ;-)

see you there.

dr. ed wright responds to my peer-review article on bible and interpretation: a word on professional conduct in the academy

Dr. Ed Wright, Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona and President of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem has responded to my article entitled, “How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change,” on the Bible and Interpretation website. Dr. Wright’s article is entitled, “The Case for the Peer-Review Process: A Rejoinder to ‘How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change’.”

Dr. Wright is a friend and colleague, and I respect his opinion and the solid points he makes in his response. I’d also like to point out that this is how scholarly debate is supposed to take place. When a scholar produces research or a publication for consumption by the academy and/or the public, the scholar should expect and even invite professional criticism. It is the only way to expose holes in a theory or an academic argument, and this process makes the theory stronger. By pointing out problems with a theory, members of the academy contribute to a global discussion and together collaborate to find an interpretation or theory that best explains all of the data. Political candidates do the same thing during debates: they stand up and critique their opponent’s points of view, and, if done properly and professionally, they shake hands when it’s over and go have a beer together. That’s how it works.

Scholars should never personally smear or attempt to harm the professional development of anyone with whom they disagree. Rather, scholars (and students, and the public at large for that matter) should always argue each case on the merits of the argument. This is precisely what Dr. Wright has done here, and it is precisely what Dr. Jodi Magness and I did last year in the pages of NEA and the SBL session that reviewed my book. We stood up, exchanged points of view, pointed out flaws in each other’s theories, and then walked to the next session, where we advocated side-by-side on the same side of a different issue. Scholars should never respond to a professional, public critique of their work with personal attacks. Rather, scholars should respond on the merits of the argument in public (including peer-review journals, blogs, professional conferences, etc.), let others contribute responses, or not respond. Attacking someone personally will only bring much-deserved shame upon the attacking scholar.

This is how it’s supposed to work. Scholars should make their arguments in their own name and stand behind their claims. They should submit to the peer-review process to be critiqued by an assembly of their peers. This ensures the quality of the academic work and improves the collaborative understanding of a particular subject. Rather than attacking a scholar personally with an anonymous campaign of letters designed to impugn the credibility of a scholar who may hold a differing point of view, scholars should offer alternatives and allow the public (i.e., the academy if a scholarly issue, or the greater public if a popular issue) to determine which arguments seem best.

This is what Dr. Wright and Dr. Magness have done. It is what Larry Schiffman and John Collins and Eibert Tigchelaar and David Stacey and the late Hanan Eshel and Eric Cline and Yuval Peleg and many others have done. We all disagree with each other on any number of topics. And we may very well agree on any number of other issues as well. The point is that we humbly submit our contributions to the academy and the greater public for consideration, we make our critiques professionally, and we stand behind and are accountable for the manner in which we conduct ourselves. The academy has, with very few exceptions, always set the example for professional conduct in the exchange of ideas. The academy is the model to which the public and politicians ought to look as the ultimate example of civil disagreement. And this is what Dr. Wright and so many others have done. I hope to follow their example and always offer commentary and scholarly opinions in a professional, transparent (and occasionally humorous) manner.

Thanx again to Dr. Wright for responding. I’m sure the topic will come up when I see him at the ASOR annual meeting this year in Atlanta, hopefully over a beer (that he buys ;-)

bc

a study in professionalism: the sbl responds to ronald hendel’s letter

Society of Biblical LiteratureThe Society of Biblical Literature responded today to an op-ed letter written by Cal Berkeley’s Dr. Ronald S. Hendel entitled “Farewell to SBL” published in the July/Aug 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. I commented on Dr. Hendel’s letter yesterday.

In their response, the SBL takes issue with and offers responses to four claims made by Dr. Hendel:

  1. Claim: The SBL has diluted its standards of critical scholarship, as evidenced in the 2004 change to the Society mission statement
  2. Claim: ASOR and AAR stopped meeting with the SBL “due to petty disputes among the leaders of these groups.”
  3. Claim: Since the AAR decision to discontinue joint meetings, the SBL has loosened its standards as to the types of organizations that can be included at the SBL Annual Meeting.
  4. Claim: The current SBL environment, which includes instances of proselytizing activity as well as veiled theological denunciations of certain individuals or groups, is hostile to a critical approach to biblical studies.

The SBL counters that each of these claims is in need of some clarification ranging from a correction of facts to an explanation of the manner in which the SBL arrived at some of its various positions. You can read the SBL’s responses here.

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

In a refreshing invitation to debate the opposing views, the SBL sent a letter to all its members inviting them to review its response to Dr. Hendel’s letter. The SBL provided a link to Dr. Hendel’s original letter in BAR and invited members to offer feedback to both Dr. Hendel’s letter and SBL’s response via email at feedback@sbl-site.org.

The SBL went a step further and asked members for their feedback concerning three areas:

  1. To what extent do you believe that the Society successfully balances its commitment to scholarly integrity while maintaining an atmosphere in which all voices may be heard (specific, first-hand examples are encouraged)?
  2. Should the Society establish a standards-based approach to membership? That is, should there be a set of minimum standards, qualifications, or achievements for SBL membership?
  3. If you favor a standards-based approach, what specific standards would you advocate for SBL membership?

And this is where I am proud to be a member of the SBL. Although I too feel that the SBL should seek to re-establish maintain its role as the top critical society for biblical studies, I am proud of the SBL’s professional and timely response. Rather than firing back unprofessionally and starting a cat fight (as many are wont to do online), or going the Golb route and employing an army of anonymous internet aliases to attack personally those involved in this difference of academic opinion, the SBL has used this as an opportunity to respond professionally to the complaint and (and this is important!) to poll its membership for their feedback regarding the issues raised by Dr. Hendel’s letter.

This is how to manage an organization properly. This is how to conduct academic business professionally. The SBL is using criticism – warranted or not – to improve the organization by asking its membership’s opinion. This not only demonstrates the SBL leadership’s willingness to listen to its members, but demonstrates the confidence SBL has in its various positions. If the positions are good, the members will state as much in their responses. If the positions are in need of improvement, the SBL will have the raw feedback it needs to open discussions on various changes to its mission.

This is how to make something positive from something negative. And this should be the purpose of true criticism: to provide grist for discussion for the purpose of bringing about needed change. The prophetic voice is about righting a wrong, not destroying the enemy. Likewise, the critic’s voice should not be about simply tearing down another scholar’s position (or the scholar personally), but about moving readers toward thinking about their world, offering an alternative rooted in fact, science, and logic, making changes for the better, and bringing about a better understanding of the topic under discussion. The same critical method used in doing literary criticism should be used to improve our society.

Both Dr. Hendel and the SBL have demonstrated class and professionalism in their stated positions. Now let’s see if this scholarly process brings about beneficial change.

hendel’s must-read critique of sbl

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Cal Berkeley’s Dr. Ronald S. Hendel has written a letter in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) that all biblical scholars should read. In his “Farewell to SBL,” Hendel examines the loss of the ‘critical’ part of biblical scholarship in the SBL. He laments the apparent exchange of critical investigation and rational scholarship for fundamentalists and charismatics, all for the sake of an increased membership and a few extra dollars. He highlights this very issue – the removal of the word ‘critical’ from SBL’s mission statement:

I wrote to the director and cited the mission statement in the SBL’s official history: “The object of the Society is to stimulate the critical investigation of the classical biblical literatures.” The director informed me that in 2004 the SBL revised its mission statement and removed the phrase “critical investigation” from its official standards. Now the mission statement is simply to “foster biblical scholarship.” So critical inquiry – that is to say, reason – has been deliberately deleted as a criterion for the SBL.

I agree with the good doctor from the University of California. The moment that critical scholarship is abandoned and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible are entertained as equally authoritative, scholarship has lost its way. While the SBL should welcome all comers, its authority lies in its pursuit of academic excellence, not the appeasement of all points of view. For while the democratization of knowledge fostered by the Internet is a welcomed and beneficial advance in the accumulation of knowledge, the authority and credibility of scholarship comes from the training and expertise exercised in differentiating the credible from the problematic, the veritable from the sensational. The authority of scholars comes from the creation, cultivation, preservation, and dissemination of verifiable knowledge and critical scholarship, not from ecumenism or the sheer size of its membership. The SBL should embrace the critical method, not a popular membership, for after all, the SBL is a society, not a church, and the letters designate a conference of scholars, not an ecclesiastical order.

(For those interested, there is a facebook group dedicated to putting the word ‘critical’ back into SBL’s purpose statement.)

sbl media guide now available

SBL Media Guidethe society of biblical literature has recently published a media guide for scholars. the media guide is contains comments and suggestions about scholars and their interaction with the media. chronicle of higher education senior reporter jennifer howard discusses ‘how to talk to the media: tips for scholars.’ concerning television documentaries, university of north carolina, chapel hill archaeologist dr. jodi magness warns: ‘tv documentaries: proceed with caution.’ author and publishers’ weekly journalist marcia z. nelson offers, ‘ten commandments in
ten minutes: how to talk to the public via journalists.’ finally, ucla’s dr. robert r. cargill discusses ‘the camera friendly scholar: essentials for giving great tv interviews.’

check it out.

i wonder if this talk will be any good? magness on cargill

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

brite divinity school has announced that dr. jodi magness, the kenan distinguished professor of teaching excellence in early judaism at the university of north carolina, chapel hill, will give a lecture in the moore building, room 201, on thursday, february 25, 2010 at 11:00 am entitled, ‘robert cargill’s qumran digital project.’

i’m wondering if she will view my research in a favorable light, or in a critical manner like she did at the recent new orleans sbl book review session, where she was among a panel of scholars that reviewed my book? will she take issue with my results (that qumran was established as a hasmonean fort and later reoccupied and expanded by a jewish sectarian community responsible for some of the dead sea scrolls in the caves nearest qumran), or my digital reconstruction modeling methodology (which is a completely transparent (via wireframes) reconstruction of all interpretations of all published scholars of every archaeological locus, distinguished by time periods), or both?

will dr. magness continue to argue that qumran was built as a sectarian settlement from the ground up?  will she argue that the dead sea scrolls were all written by essenes at qumran? some?

attend the lecture and find out!

for some background, read vol. 72, no. 1 in near eastern archaeology here. order the book online at gorgias or amazon.

i can’t wait to hear the podcast!

perhaps i’ll use my forthcoming march lecture in philadelphia entitled, ‘why the dead sea scrolls still matter’ to respond a bit. we’ll see :) -bc


update: also, don’t miss dr. magness’ main lecture on ‘the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls,’ thursday evening, february 25, 2010 from 7:00 -8:30 pm at the kelly alumni center at brite divinity school (texas christian university).

and i am told by brite that there will be no podcast. perhaps someone in the audience could tweet or blog the lectures?

blogger and online publication section call for papers for the 2010 sbl annual meeting closes march 1

Society of Biblical Literaturethere’s still time. if you plan on submitting a paper for the inaugural ‘blogger and online publication’ section at the society of biblical literature 2010 annual meeting in atlanta, make sure you do so before march 1, 2010.

description of the section:

Originally organized under the aegis of the ‘biblioblogging’ community, this unit has been renamed. ‘Biblioblogging’ refers to a diverse community of nearly every point of view that communicates new ideas or insights, debates, and discusses exegetical and historical subjects. The Blogger and Online Publication Section supports the publication of articles, commentary, and items of interest relating to the Bible and biblical studies online using blogs, social media sites, online journals, and other Internet or web-related vehicles, and promotes communication between bloggers and the SBL.

the call for papers:

The 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be held November 20-23, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. Members wishing to present papers should submit proposals on the SBL website at http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/AnnualMeeting.aspx by March 1, 2010. First-time presenters and graduate students are encouraged to submit completed papers. Papers from established scholars are particularly encouraged.

The SBL Blogger and Online Publication section invites proposals for papers in two sections for the 2010 annual meeting. Session 1 will be an invited session exploring the history of blogging, the rise of the Internet and its use by biblical scholars, and the future of blogging. Session 2 will be an open session calling for papers focusing on any area of biblical studies, theology, archaeology of the Levant, and the use of blogging in these fields. The second session also invites 60-second profiles of individual blogs, which will be included in a highlight of blog sites. Contributors are welcome to present papers for presentation or 60-second summaries of their blogs for inclusion in a single, 20-minute survey of the top biblical studies related blogs in the web.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Dr. Robert R. Cargill, Center for Digital Humanities, UCLA, 1020 Public Affairs Building, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1499, or email cargill@humnet.ucla.edu.

an idea for the 2010 sbl biblioblogging session in atlanta

i am considering an idea that was floated at this year’s sbl conference in new orleans. as a part of our call for papers for the inaugural 2010 sbl biblioblogger session, we wanted to include as many contributors as possible because there are so many excellent biblioblogs and bibliobloggers. the idea is an adaption of the webby awards, which highlights the best of the web, while limiting award recipients to mere 5-word acceptance speeches.

the idea is to invite several 60-second summary contributions in either text or video blog format. then, in addition to regular paper submissions, the 20 best minute-long segments will be sequenced into a single 20-minute presentation surveying the best biblioblogs on the internet. in each 60-second presentation, a biblioblogger describes one’s blog, what one studies, and why it is relevant. this will allow us to see and understand a little bit more about a greater number of blogs, while also hearing more in-depth papers in the traditional conference manner. the one submitting a blog for consideration may write a 60-second summary or may submit a 60-second video blog. likewise, one may submit a colleague’s blog for consideration.

thoughts? other ideas? should they be 30-second clips?

please pass this post along and have those wanting to make comments comment here on this post.

thanx.

on the ‘accreditation’ of bibliobloggers

SBL Biblioblog Badge

SBL Biblioblog Badge

the following was originally an excursus within an earlier essay on role of online universities. i have posted this revised and expanded excursus as its own essay here. -bc

some have recently complained about the recent announcement of the society of biblical literature’s affiliation with individuals who identify themselves as ‘bibliobloggers’ – a loosely connected group of biblical scholars and students dedicated to publishing their thoughts, research, and opinions online. a general objection appears to be a discomfort with the attempt to organize and officially recognize a group of scholars who, by the independent nature of their chosen medium of publication – blogging – are often more comfortable as independent voices. however, a repeated, acute objection appears to revolve around the fear of an oversight body with the power to bind and loose confirm or reject a blogger’s legitimacy.

i have addressed some of these issues in previous posts. this new affiliation results in a new section within sbl dedicated to the practice of biblical research via blogs, websites, and other online technologies (i.e., biblioblogging). the sbl affiliation is an attempt to coordinate the efforts of bibliobloggers, many of whom are already members of sbl, instructors at universities, or both, and establish a venue at the national meeting to present, discuss, and share new ideas and experiences in a dedicated session. a steering committee was formed to guide the new group, coordinate the new sbl section’s efforts, and hopefully bring a bit more legitimacy to a growing practice increasingly being adopted by biblical scholars around the globe.

some, however, have objected, worried that the new group may serve as a blogging police or worse yet, an accrediting agency. however, this is simply not the case. several hypothetical straw man (and straw woman) arguments have been made in an attempt to contest the sbl’s formal affiliation with bibliobloggers. but, perhaps the most appropriate comparison to the straw man arguments made by dissenters is the academy’s current response to online universities.

online universities are businesses that offer degrees to students who pay tuition to take classes that are completely online. many of these institutions possess little-to-no oversight, no accreditation, and offer little real education. they are essentially paper mills offering worthless pieces of paper degrees to anyone that will pay the $500 tuition. it is therefore possible that some phony ‘institutions’ call themselves ‘universities,’ and that those they graduate regularly and proudly place the degrees they have ‘earned’ online after their names (like ‘m.b.a.,’ ‘ph.d.,’ or ‘m.div.’).

what is true for online universities and their graduates is also true of bibliobloggers. it is true that nutballs can theoretically claim to be a ‘biblioblogger’ by typing the word ‘biblioblog’ on their blog or creating a badge and affixing it to their site, just as it is possible for someone to ‘achieve’ a ph.d from an unaccredited paper mill (online or otherwise). but, possession of an online degree doesn’t make the degree worthwhile, the recipient legitimate, or one’s subsequent claims respectable. all it means is that one is claiming to be something, even if they are actually not what they claim to be.

it is not the job of the government to tell these people that their ‘degree’ is worthless; they have a right to buy a piece of paper with the words ‘ph.d.’ on it if they choose. in the same way, it is not the job of the sbl or any biblioblogger steering committee to regulate, control, or otherwise sanction who is and who is not claiming to be a biblioblogger. this is traditionally the job of accrediting agencies, and it is important to remember that accreditation is voluntarily sought by the institution seeking accreditation. that is, a university voluntarily submits itself to the accreditation process, it is not imposed upon them.

universities are governed by accrediting agencies. the government list of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs lists national, regional, and state accrediting agencies like the western association for schools and colleges, the new england association of schools and colleges, the north central association of colleges and schools, etc.  but within the academy, ‘accreditation’ (i.e., worthiness) of individual scholars is informal, and is usually based upon their academic affiliation (where they work/teach), their role within the academy (committees, contributions to higher education, etc.), or their record of publication (contribution of original research to society), even though no formal accreditation process exists for individual scholars. (one could argue that the tenure process serves this purpose, but one need not hold a tenure-track position to be a credible lecturer or researcher.)

similarly, at the intersection of blogging and academic biblical studies, this informal ‘accreditation’ may include a blogger’s affiliation (with a university, church, or professional organization like sblaarasor, etc.), one’s role within the biblioblogging community (reputation, commitment to online resources and research, etc.), and one’s record and consistency of publication online (contribution to the online community). however, no formal organization, committee, or individual exists to grant accreditation to bibliobloggers, nor will it (at least not with the steering committee for the sbl-affiliated bibliobloggers). credibility and ‘accreditation’ rests with the peer-review process; an informal collective of scholarly peers ultimately decides which bloggers are credible and which are not. thus, the same factors that weigh into decisions of accreditation or legitimacy of a university or an individual scholar should weigh into the ‘accreditation’ or legitimacy of a biblioblogger – no more and no less. again, this ‘accreditation’ is not a formal document as it is with universities, but better resembles the ‘street cred’ that is earned only through years of dedication and experience to one’s craft.

so, while anyone may claim to be a degree-granting university or a thought-dispensing biblioblogger, those that do so are judged by their peers on credible measures of reputation, publication, and contribution to the field, regardless of whether they have the word ‘university’ or ‘biblioblogger’ on their websites. like the accreditation of universities, colleges, and online universities, accreditation is ultimately a peer-review process. many will claim to be bibliobloggers, but only some will be recognized by an academy of their peers to be worthwhile.

why online universities will never take the place of real ones

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from by Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on life and career experience.

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on 'life and career experience.'

according to a recent chronicle of higher education report by marc parry entitled, ‘unmuzzling diploma mills: dog earns m.b.a. online,’ a dog successfully received an m.b.a. degree from an online university.

GetEducated.com, an online-learning consumer group, managed to purchase an online M.B.A. for its mascot, a dog named Chester Ludlow.

The Vermont pug earned his tassles by pawing over $499 to Rochville University, which offers “distance learning degrees based on life and career experience,” according to a news release from GetEducated. He got back a package from a post-office box in Dubai that contained a diploma and transcripts, plus a certificate of distinction in finance and another purporting to show membership in the student council.

there are several issues here worthy of comment. for one, there is the problem of simply being able to purchase a degree from an online ‘university.’ while these ‘institutions of higher education’ have no credibility, prestige, or even accreditation, it does not stop someone with little-to-no integrity from paying $499 to obtain an m.b.a., bachelor’s degree, ph.d., or in some cases, a seminary degree and ordination from an online paper mill (‘paper mill’ defined as a so-called ‘educational institution’ that issues little more than a piece of paper). people who pay this money and enroll in these ‘courses’ are doing the same thing that more than likely caused them to avoid or drop out of regular colleges in the first place: they seek the easy way out and purchase a degree from an online paper mill. while these ‘degrees’ are utterly worthless to any and all members of the academy and most employers, it does not stop those who have purchased their degrees online from a bogus institution from listing ‘ph.d.’ or ‘m.b.a.’ after their names.

(excursus: here is a quick note to all of you complaining about the sbl affiliation with bibliobloggers. this is perhaps the most appropriate comparison to the straw man argument made by those who believe this affiliation to be a bad thing. it is true that even nutballs can theoretically claim to be a ‘biblioblogger’ by typing the word ‘biblioblog’ on their blog or creating a badge and affixing it to their site, just as it is possible for someone to ‘achieve’ a ph.d from an unaccredited paper mill (online or otherwise). but, possession of an online degree doesn’t make the degree worthwhile, the recipient legitimate, or one’s subsequent claims respectable. all it means is that one is claiming to be something, even if they are actually not what they claim to be. it is not the job of the government to tell people that their ‘degree’ is worthless (they have a right to buy a piece of paper with the words ‘ph.d.’ on it), just as it is not the job of the sbl or any biblioblogger steering committee to regulate, control, or otherwise sanction who is and who is not claiming to be a biblioblogger. this is the job of accrediting agencies. universities are governed by accrediting agencies. the government list of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs lists national, regional, and state accrediting agencies like the western association for schools and colleges, the new england association of schools and colleges, the north central association of colleges and schools, etc.  likewise, within the academy, ‘accreditation’ (i.e., worthiness) of individual scholars is usually based upon their academic affiliation (where they work/teach), their role within the academy (committees, contributions to higher education, etc.), or their record of publication (contribution of original research to society). at the intersection of blogging and academic biblical studies, this ‘accreditation’ may include one’s affiliation (with a university, church, or an organization of professionals like sbl, aar, asor, etc.), one’s role within the biblioblogging community (reputation, commitment to online resources and research, etc.) and one’s record and consistency of publication online (contribution to the online community). the same factors that weigh into decisions of accreditation or legitimacy of a university should weigh into the ‘accreditation’ or legitimacy of a biblioblogger, no more, no less. so, while anyone may claim to be a degree-granting university or a thought-dispensing biblioblogger, those that do so are judged by their peers on credible measures of reputation, publication, and contribution to the field, regardless of whether they have the word ‘university’ or ‘biblioblogger’ on their websites. but i digress…)

the MBA degree from Rochville University for Chester Ludlow, a pug dog.

The online MBA degree from Rochville University for 'Chester Ludlow,' a pug dog.

there is another serious issue for institutions of higher education that deserves comment. the fact is, many legitimate universities are now using various new technologies to offer more classes online, especially through extension programs. these courses are taught by vetted university faculty and are offered by fully accredited, brand name institutions. many of these online courses are being offered in response to the ever changing worlds of students. as more and more students use the internet for more and more aspects of their daily lives, and as more teachers are utilizing technology within the classroom, it is only natural for these very lectures to be recorded and uploaded to the web along with required readings, assignments, and assessments. with recent advances in technology, even interactive discussions can be facilitated online using message boards, forums, instant messaging, wimba, elluminate, second life, and live video conferencing.

these online courses are most effective at the undergraduate level for foundational courses that provide the bulk of raw data and facts upon which advanced ideas are developed via critical thinking and writing exercises. likewise, some courses like art history, religion, archaeology, and mathematics, which traditionally disseminate raw data via printed text books are more predisposed to being successfully conveyed digitally than other abstract disciplines such as philosophy, and rhetoric. however, advances in technology are allowing even these courses to be digitized so that exercises in logic, mathematics, and composition can be practiced online.

that is to say, there is a legitimate way to present online courses that maintain the integrity, responsibility, and accountability that is worthy of the tuition paid to an accredited institution. but established brick-and-mortar universities have been slow to adopt the technology used for online course offerings. just as many brick-and-mortar businesses reacted slowly and suspiciously to the rise of online retailers, many universities rejected online learning, maintaining that distance learning was the realm of smaller, less prestigious colleges. but with the rise of technology within brick-and-mortar university courses, distance learning has become a more acceptable means of disseminating information to students.

new, online universities now compete with smaller, lower-tier universities for courses in general education and vocational training. this is the market where students can pay less for an equivalent amount of online training and still receive good value. and this is where online educational firms will have the most success. however, while many online universities offer upper division courses and even graduate courses, online universities will most likely never capture any significant market share of these students because these online graduate degrees simply do not provide the desired gravitas for the tuition paid by students. that is, it is a better value to pay a little more to a name-brand institution and put in the hard work for a m.b.a. from a reputable institution than it is to pay a discount, online institution for a worthless piece of paper degree that no employer will respect.

online colleges will never replace traditional, brick-and-mortar, four-year universities. there is simply far too much experience to be gained by packing up the car, moving into a dorm, meeting new people from around the world, experiencing new thoughts, ideas, and cultures in person, meeting (and missing) real deadlines, making excuses, crying over lost girlfriends and boyfriends, protesting, cheering, staying up too late, drinking too much (root beer for those of you at dry campuses), and experiencing the real-life preparation for the real world. however, where they are done properly, with credibility and with accreditation, online courses can be an effective way to take in vast quantities of foundational information on a student’s own schedule. the critical thinking, writing, and public interaction is still better suited for a real classroom environment with a real instructor. but as real instructors at accredited universities begin to implement online tools for use in their real classes, the online universities will fade, their brief bubble will burst, and the hard work, preparation, blood, sweat, tears, and all-nighters of a real, technologically-infused university will triumph in the end.

like everything else in life, institutions of higher education are about credibility and reputation. respect must be earned and cannot be bought. and ultimately, one’s true education will manifest itself through one’s words and deeds, not simply through the letters at the end of one’s name.

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