Thursday, September 13, 2012

Online Education: are you using it?

As more and more universities post content online, start up distance learning programs, and education becomes more and more accessible it opens up new opportunities as well as new challenges. The following TED talk is a fascinating look at the opportunities created through programs such as Coursera and other sites where content from top universities is made available free of charge to students around the world. I think that this video is definitely worth watching as it reveals not only the exciting possibilities of online education, it should also be encouraging to home schoolers and educators seeing to engage their students in new ways.

Upon watching the above lecture, it struck me that in some ways online lectures could be more interactive than your traditional classroom lecture. The Two Sigma problem is one we have indirectly addressed here in our talk about the need for engagement in education. When parents and educators seek options outside the classroom, more often than not, the students benefit. Being able to engage more creatively with students is what home schooling is all about! It's also foundational to teaching history using literature! Teaching history this way is not about filling a student's head with knowledge, it's about teaching them to engage with ideas and see history in a new way. 

I have to say that I think there is a lot to be valued in the trend toward online education. I was fortunate to take online classes back in 1997! Even at that very early stage in the world wide web, I enjoyed the interconnectedness offered by the courses. Despite having to listen to the annoying whine of a dial-up modem, it was fun to interact with fellow students around the world, get feedback from peers, and read lectures prepared by the teacher. The internet and online classes have come a long way in the past 15 years! 

So I would love to know what you thought of the video! And do your students take part in online classes? Are they thinking of enrolling in a distance learning program for college? What benefits and downfalls to you think are inherent to the type of education?

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  1. I think there is a place for online classes but I think it's something to be cautious about especially in regards to higher education. My husband works in an academics and getting an online college degree is not respected in the same way as a degree from going to a brick college and attending classes in person. Especially in the higher education market there are a lot of scams that people need to be cautious of. I think a lot is missing from education online as opposed to attending a University.

  2. For academic classes–particularly math and science, it is inevitable that the online course is changing the way we think about education. In the humanities, it will be some time before the online experience can match the interactivity of the classroom discussion of great literature. But that will come too, and may actually be happening in some places. While I was doing graduate studies a few years ago, what I found with the online forum was that the more tentative students felt more free to share online than in the classroom. This was a boon to them and enriched all of us as well. Everything is opening up in new ways and will continue to do so. It is an exciting time! Thanks for the good food for thought!