Liberty University: On the Precipice

Liberty University (LU) stands on the precipice of being able to lead the nation in on-line learning in the Age of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Its online learning for university undergraduate and graduate studies has massive amounts of curricula designed by learned professors and that are finely tuned each year.

The university has over 100,000 students worldwide who sign in from all over the world to get their college degrees: and pay a hefty price for them.

LU is making money hand over fist, as can be seen from their massive construction projects all over the southern portion of the city of Lynchburg, Virginia, and into Campbell County, in addition to their financial ability to replace lost state tuition assistance grants to in-state students through self-funding.

I say precipice, because it is now where Liberty can lead and soar, or crash to the ground.

My friend, who has received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from LU Online, took every one of her courses online for almost 4 years.  She never met any of her professors, and has gone into debt to the tune of about $60,000.00.  At age 40, she has a B.A. in Education, and a M.A., with High Distinction in Early Childhood Education.

She has worked incredibly hard, and yet, except for designing the courses and grading the assignments, the professors did almost nothing.  And, moreover, the professors were paid almost nothing.

LU pays its assistant professors to design, prepare and grade the course, but that is all.  LU gets away with this because the professors are not lecturing or having real office hours like they do for teaching classes on campus.  For LU, their enrollment numbers are huge, their tuition receipts are mammoth, and their expenses are less than they would otherwise be at any comparable-sized university.

With every other college and university now eyeing moving more of their courses online because of the pandemic, and the very real threat of beginning the 2020-21 academic year in either an online or modified on-line setting, LU will now face real competition from established universities and colleges with far better academic reputations.

The simple answer for LU is to transfer their limited instructional responsibilities of assistant professors who teach online classes to go to virtual classrooms.  It would mean paying the professors to record three hour lectures each week (or more in their shortened course sessions, which are 12 weeks) and the professors using those lectures to be a part of the curriculum and tested material. It would mean the professors doing more than simply organizing the instructional material.  It would mean them doing what they want to do: teach to students with whom they can interact, listen and see.

All of the established colleges and universities will be requiring this, and they do not have the infrastructure in place to do it like LU does.   Their professors don’t have the years of experience developing online courses.  Other colleges can only dream of having this entire infrastructure in place.  LU has it, and the university can and should use it now.

Instead of pretending that this a political problem about “opening the economy,” Liberty University can concentrate on what Jerry Falwell, Sr., sought to build: a Christian university to lead the nation.  This would be real leadership and could set the gold standard in higher education.  The question is: What are your priorities?  Are they educational, political, or worse, financial?

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