the highest profile ones, seem prone to discrim-
inate in favour of “home grown” PhDs.
Dr. Stainton is professor of philosophy and associate dean,
research, in the faculty of arts and humanities at the University of
What about students?
both patrick phillips in “Enjoy your last
days on campus” (November 2009) and Bart
Johnson in his response (December 2009) leave
out a key element in their consideration of the
future of universities: student need. Mr. Johnson
does allow that “people actually enjoy being
together in the same room, and students seek
new (live) social contacts through the university
experience,” but physical university space does
more than satisfy social preferences; it provides
a crucial alternative to online learning.
I recently asked my first-year university stu-
dents to work completely online for one week of
their course in academic reading and writing.
In class the following week, several students
expressed their dislike of extensive reading on
a computer screen. They had trouble attending
to passages that weren’t entertaining, and missed
participating in face-to-face class discussions.
Students were also concerned about writing
online, specifically in a discussion board forum.
One student suggested that discussing an idea
in person is much faster than having to write out
one’s thoughts, wait for replies, and then move
back into the dialogue. Others suggested that
they were less comfortable participating in a
discussion board than they were in a social net-
working environment: the way they said things
mattered so much more and sometimes they
could not delete comments they had made.
Students also noted that they had been taught
to work together throughout their elementary
and high school years. Collaborating on assign-
ments was encouraged because, they were told,
they would be collaborating in their workplaces.
They were surprised that educators are now dis-
cussing moving more course delivery toward an
online learning model that could make them
Professor Parr teaches Laurentian University courses in
the University Partnership Centre at Georgian College in