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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On line learning one more time

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a run a few articles on the perils of on line learning lately. It seems that students:

1. take on line courses just to get the credit

no? do tell

2. need to be prodded into having discussions on line

really? might this be because they are just trying to get a credit?

3. don't get the full value of the lecture using this medium

actually this one is beyond my sarcasm; do people really think lectures are a valid way of teaching? still?

4. have trouble forming "virtual communities"

you mean that nonsense is nonsense?

5. find that the quality of education is compromised

apparently a lecture hall of 500 students does not compromise educational quality?

and my favorite: teachers of on line courses find it a lot of work

So, let me set the record straight about on line education. It is a disaster. Why? Because the idea that every school that offers it has is that they will "put their existing courses on line." In other words they will provide the same junk they provide now but will use a method not suited for that junk. Current lecture courses work for faculty not students. Students are forced to take them and they sleep (or text) through them. They take them to get credit not because they want to and teachers like them because they are not a lot of work to produce.

But, get this, on line education will win in the end. It cannot be any other way.   This will only happen when what is offered is exciting, experiential,  and adapted to the new medium. In other words, it will happen when we re-think education and when we re-consider what it means to teach. Helping somebody do something that they want to do is the right metaphor, not forcing them to endure a set of hurdles in order to get a credit.