A couple of decades ago, when I was dean of online learning at Stevens Institute of Technology, a small STEM college on the Hudson with a view of mid-Manhattan, we polled our digital students about why they chose to enroll as virtual learners. Did they come to our virtual classrooms for the strength of our faculty? The quality of the program? The reputation of the college?
When we tallied the results, one reason emerged as a driving force for our online learners: They came seeking convenience.
We shouldn’t have been surprised. Noted Columbia University legal scholar, Tim Wu, has called convenience, “the most underestimated and least understood force in the world today” and “perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies.”
Of course, technology has brought new conveniences for on-campus as well as online students. Back when I was an undergraduate at Brooklyn College, for example, each semester I’d queue up for hours in the school gym in front of long tables with blank-faced staff to register for class. I’d fret that my longed-for Shakespeare class would close-out by the time I finally reached the front of the line.