The wisdom of “staying online”


Staying Online: How to Navigate Digital Higher Education by Robert Ubell

Published September 2021, Routledge.

I grew up in a college family. My father was a teacher. Many of the adults in my life were academics. Some of these academics also taught at my father’s college. But most of them were my father’s colleagues from other schools. They would come to visit him on campus or at our house, or we would see them at conferences. (Dad frequently combined family and work trips).

My childhood and adolescence allowed me to appreciate the value of a university community. An understanding that colleagues and friends can be the same people. And this academia encourages these friendships to develop with colleagues near and far.

Over the past 15 years or so, Bob Ubell has been one of my most appreciated “distant” colleagues. As I have found my voice as a writer on higher education, Bob has always been a source of encouragement and wisdom. He’s the kind of person to reach out with a short note of congratulations and praise. Over the course of my career, I have continually turned to Bob to help me understand the role of online learning in the larger history of higher education.

For all of these reasons, I am so happy to share with you how thrilled I was to read Bob’s latest book, Staying Online: How to Navigate Digital Higher Education.

Stay on the line is Bob in book form. The book is wise, intelligent, funny, modest, direct, personal, insightful, and easy to read.

Stay on the line provides a timely analysis of the main challenges and trends related to online, blended and digital learning. The book contextualizes these trends in the history of how universities are navigating the pandemic.

The book draws a series of insightful lessons from the history of online education and recent developments around COVID-19 and distance learning, to chart a progressive and optimistic path for teaching and learning in colleges and universities in our country.

In a concise and quick 158 pages, Stay on the line covers a large part of the territory. Starting with what colleges and universities have learned while trying to maintain academic continuity during the pandemic, the book then addresses an array of issues and trends related to online learning.

In a series of short chapters, the book highlights the fundamental ideas of science learning that underpin course design and effective teaching. Issues relating to organizational structures and institutional investments to improve the quality and scale of online programs are covered.

The pros and cons of nonprofit colleges and universities collaborating with for-profit companies (OPMs and platforms) to fund, develop, and manage online degrees are also explored in Stay on the line.

What I really like about Stay on the line This is how Bob integrates his analysis of the present and the future of online learning into his professional career. Bob is not afraid to talk about times when he was unsure of his abilities as an academic, such as telling his own story of teaching online. His experience working with an instructional designer and a team of non-teaching educators to create an online course is one of the best examples I have read of the benefits of online education for educator development.

In a chapter on large-scale online education, Bob talks about his initial reservations about MOOCs – and how his ideas changed as he watched (and participated in) the evolution of online learning. With a long career as an educator and leader in the online learning space, and as an academic and change student in higher education, Bob is uniquely positioned to provide our community with actionable insights. .

Stay on the line can be read as a call to colleges and universities to place e-learning on an equal footing with residential learning in developing long-term institutional strategies.

Skeptics and e-learning champions would benefit from spending time with Bob and reading Stay on the line.

What are you reading?

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