NAS president Peter Wood correctly identifies the dangers of the overuse of online classes as a cost-saving device for higher education on the NAS site:
The truth is that high-quality online courses are far more difficult for students than traditional classrooms. Students who enroll in these courses have to be tremendously self-motivated; those who aren’t quickly fall behind and the dropout rate for online courses among undergraduate students is far higher than that for courses taught in traditional classrooms. I am all in favor of making online education a standard feature of American college instruction. It has numerous advantages of scale, timing, and flexibility for students who are disciplined enough to pursue it. But that’s a relatively small cohort. The obvious alternative is to offer online college courses that are “college” in name only.
This has been my exact experience when teaching an online course. Each semester, I can use my online course grades to teach a statistics class about bimodal distributions. Online classes should have more a niche role versus a substantive one across college curricula (last month, David Clemens and I both had essays on the NAS site that argued in favor of that point).
Advocating widespread online courses for all does more to credentialize college degrees than it does to push a revolutionary form of class delivery.