Firstly, taping lectures provides considerable benefit to students enrolled in the course. Taped lectures allow students to review parts of the material they did not understand and provide another study tool to students reviewing for exams. While some might object that this would make students less likely to come to lecture, the Board feels that these lectures would be a supplement and not a substitute for actual class time. By moving lecture material online, professors would be able to use the scheduled lecture time to address especially difficult topics mentioned in the online lecture or to delve into more specialized areas of the course material.
Secondly, there are additional benefits for students considering or shopping the course. By taping lectures, the University could create an archive of video material that students could review before setting foot inside the classroom. Sometimes lectures in the first week of classes are not representative of the material of the course or the teaching style of the professor. By providing lectures from previous semesters to students, the University would make it easier for students to shop classes without having to alter the academic schedule to accommodate a full shopping period, thereby allowing students to make more informed decisions when selecting courses.
Lastly, the creation of online lectures for more courses would allow the University to expand its online course offerings to the general public. While the University does currently offer digital content to the public online through iTunes U and other venues, increasing access to free course material would allow Princeton to increase its international presence and increase its name recognition. Furthermore, the Board supports the increasing democratization of education and feels that the mission of a university should be to educate all people. While some may be concerned that this would cheapen the value of a Princeton education, we predict that the University would only offer certification to students enrolled in its undergraduate degree program. Nothing, moreover, can substitute for the actual discussion between students and professors that occurs during precepts and office hours. However, the expansion of online materials would allow Princeton-quality lectures to reach thousands of individuals who are currently unable to access these materials. As an institution of higher learning, we feel that Princeton has an obligation to help expand access to knowledge in addition to educating its own students.
In conclusion, the Board enthusiastically supports the decision of the computer science department to move the algorithms course online and encourages other departments to consider doing the same for their introductory courses. An expansion of Princeton’s online offerings benefits not only the student body but also people worldwide. Providing free online lectures is yet another way for Princeton to be in the service of all nations.
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