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Online Learning - good trend?

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Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Huckleby » Wed May 02, 2012 10:10 am

There have been a lot of stories in news lately about growth of online learning:
Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses

Also saw story about how students who are likely to drop-out of high school get quickie degrees through computer learning:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/201 ... oblem.html

My experience and bias is that online courses are horse shit. Learning stuff off of a computer screen is just fact memorization that doesn't stick for long. And I suspect online-learning is mostly profit driven, it is a way to sort-of educate people on the cheap.

But the idea of elite universities making their content accessible to the masses does have me intrigued.

What are your personal experiences with online learning? My limited experience has been that it's cheesey.

The trend I see is that in 30 years, teachers will be a luxury for rich kids.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby rabble » Wed May 02, 2012 11:59 am

I've taken several online courses. Some of them helped me, some did no good at all.

All of them drove home two little points:
1. the thing about live teachers is, you can ask them questions when you get stuck.
2. At some point you always get stuck.

If you're already good with the material you'll do fine. If you're learning something new, something you need for work or for next semester's courses, and you have to nail it, not just pass some tests, that online course is going to screw you.

If there's someone readily available for one on one Q&A, either in person or online chat, chances are better that you'll get something out of the course. In my experience, that person will know the material slightly better than you already do and their response will be to open the textbook you've already been staring at for the last four hours and try to find the answer.

If it's for credit, we now factor in all the wonderful ways we have to cheat.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Wed May 02, 2012 12:11 pm

This kid who aced his ACTs tells me you might need to rethink your bias

I'm not sure what your experience with online learning has been, but if you've actually read the two articles you linked, they talk about teaching tools that sound nothing like the dull memorization process you just described. Though that does remind me of a few of the history classes I took in grade school. How exactly is reading a text book so much better than reading text off of a computer screen?

The only online learning I've utilized myself have been IT related so focused on process and utilization of tools. Not much memorization at all.

I'd think having more tools available to educate more people would be a good thing. Making the tools varied also helps address the learning needs of different students.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Ned Flanders » Wed May 02, 2012 12:18 pm

Francis Di Domizio wrote:I'd think having more tools available to educate more people would be a good thing. Making the tools varied also helps address the learning needs of different students.


This.

"Mass customization" is the next "big thing". I don't see why education can't follow. Well, except that it's a huge threat to the Education-Union-Government Complex.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby jman111 » Wed May 02, 2012 12:24 pm

Ned Flanders wrote:"Mass customization" is the next "big thing". I don't see why education can't follow.

"Mass customization" seems incongruous with "standardized testing", no? And how is "customization" increased with increased class sizes and greater student-to-teacher ratios?
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby other i » Wed May 02, 2012 12:37 pm

I suppose it depends on whether the customization is occurring for the students' purposes or someone else's.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby ilikebeans » Wed May 02, 2012 12:54 pm

jman111 wrote:
Ned Flanders wrote:"Mass customization" is the next "big thing". I don't see why education can't follow.

"Mass customization" seems incongruous with "standardized testing", no? And how is "customization" increased with increased class sizes and greater student-to-teacher ratios?

This.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby green union terrace chair » Wed May 02, 2012 12:58 pm

Nothing compares to in-person classes where you can interact with a teacher and other students. Some classes are so hands-on that they must be in person.

But I think there's a role for online learning, especially for certain coursework and to serve the needs of students with limited finances / mobility and adult students who are constrained by work and/or family.

In the beginning of Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home, a reborn Spock is receiving online tutoring / testing. And look at how he turned out.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Detritus » Wed May 02, 2012 12:59 pm

"Mass customization" is an oxymoron hiding a complete lack of substance. The online ed world (educational technology in general) is very very high on fine-sounding phrases with nothing much behind them--potemkin learning in potemkin schools. Online courses can be designed well, and can work well, but most are not and do not except for self-motivated and well prepared students who would learn in practically any environment. As study after study has shown, at-risk students are best served by individual attention, differentiated instruction, small classes, and culturally responsive curricula (taking culture to mean, broadly, the students' life circumstances). It is possible to provide this online, but it takes up much more significant resources, more sophisticated design and implementation, and more staff time. It's cheaper to do it with a real teacher in a real classroom, which also has the benefit that we know it works already (see, for example, the quote at the end of the article linked by the OP).

Which is why the vast majority of online instruction consists of videotaping a lecture and slapping the link up on the web, then supplementing that with (often asynchronous) online discussion.

I have played around with a ton of online educational systems. Very few are much better than the little boxes of graded reading samples we used to go through in elementary school when we were done early with a class assignment. Educational games are rarely educational or, frankly, all that entertaining; online language instruction is minimally effective even if your only goal is being able to ask directions in French; humanities and social science courses are rarely designed to benefit from being online in the first place; and forget about lab sciences.

Blended instruction--combining face-to-face and online instruction--on the other hand can be very effective, more effective than just one or the other. It's more expensive than traditional in-class teaching, but not as expensive as fully online instruction, too. But since that approach doesn't allow corporate reformers to reduce educators to hourly wage earners, it's not a popular approach with the Rhees and Gateses and their friends.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby rabble » Wed May 02, 2012 1:02 pm

I'm not completely certain but the article that Francis linked to appears to be a "real" virtual classroom, with a live teacher whose pupils log in at assigned times. Everything's the same as a classroom except everyone's physical location.

One of my first engineering courses at URock, the two year college in Janesville, back in 91, was like that except we had to go to a classroom on campus and the teacher was in a campus way up nort. Email was a novel concept then.

I'm fine with that sort of class. If there's a live teacher in place who is available to students, it works. An online course that doesn't have a teacher is often a complete waste of time.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Huckleby » Wed May 02, 2012 1:14 pm

Francis Di Domizio wrote:I'm not sure what your experience with online learning has been, but if you've actually read the two articles you linked, they talk about teaching tools that sound nothing like the dull memorization process you just described.

One fact of learning that comes up again and again is that people retain information when there is some - any - emotion associated with the learning moment. I don't remember the neurological explanation how how the recall pathways are strengthened, but intuitively, I know it explains the memories that I have oddly retained from a jillion years ago.

Maybe this is just me, but I have much more of an emotional response when I'm listening to a live presentation.

Francis Di Domizio wrote:The only online learning I've utilized myself have been IT related so focused on process and utilization of tools. Not much memorization at all..
Right, my experience was with IT training tools.

I find it much more wearying to look at a computer screen than to sit with books.
But what we're really comparing is in-person lectures with computer video.

Francis Di Domizio wrote:I'd think having more tools available to educate more people would be a good thing.

Ya, I'm prepared to open my mind because of this reason.

I'm real skeptical of high school kids getting "educated" with speed computer courses.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Huckleby » Wed May 02, 2012 1:17 pm

rabble wrote:I'm fine with that sort of class. If there's a live teacher in place who is available to students, it works. An online course that doesn't have a teacher is often a complete waste of time.

Ya, I'm more open to the idea of a teacher interacting live through a computer.

Still, there is nothing like being physically near someone, there is more communication, compare a live concert to a simulcast on TV. It's more emotional.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Huckleby » Wed May 02, 2012 1:33 pm

Ned Flanders wrote:"Mass customization" is the next "big thing". I don't see why education can't follow. Well, except that it's a huge threat to the Education-Union-Government Complex.


My worst fear is that online learning will be used as tool to further erode support for public education. You see seeds in comment above.

I have a troubled-teen nephew who "graduated" from high school a few years ago. Guess he's neither a teen or troubled anymore. Anyone, he was a smart kid who read a lot. Not into drugs. But he was lazy and unmotivated, didn't go to class.
Well, they hooked him up to a computer, and got 3 years worth of credit done in about 4 months. So they hand him a phony high school diploma and he's on his way. I guess its better than nothing, and the school certainly can't be blamed for a kid who just won't or can't perform in a classroom setting. His phony degree didn't prepare him for much.

I fear private schools and private tutors are wave of future for those who can afford them. Robots for the rest.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby rabble » Wed May 02, 2012 1:37 pm

Huckleby wrote:
rabble wrote:I'm fine with that sort of class. If there's a live teacher in place who is available to students, it works. An online course that doesn't have a teacher is often a complete waste of time.

Ya, I'm more open to the idea of a teacher interacting live through a computer.

Still, there is nothing like being physically near someone, there is more communication, compare a live concert to a simulcast on TV. It's more emotional.

Speaking as one who has taken both kinds of courses, no that's not true.

What makes it a good or bad experience is the teacher and your own motivation.

The guy who taught my long distance course knew his material and his tools. I got better and faster responses out of him than a whole lot of "physically near" teachers I can think of. Someone can be an asshole or a good teacher online just as well as they can in person.
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Re: Online Learning - good trend?

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Wed May 02, 2012 1:39 pm

rabble wrote:I'm not completely certain but the article that Francis linked to appears to be a "real" virtual classroom, with a live teacher whose pupils log in at assigned times. Everything's the same as a classroom except everyone's physical location.


I believe you are right, and can try to confirm that later (I only remembered the article because my daughter is friends with the young man).

The point I was trying to make (and may have come short of) was that there is wide range of options available to students when looking on line. Judging all of them based on the low end of the spectrum seems fairly silly.

Huckleby wrote:Maybe this is just me, but I have much more of an emotional response when I'm listening to a live presentation.

I don't think it's just you, but I don't know that that is universally true. I will say that I've noticed there is a difference between watching an online lecture that was made specifically to be viewed on the internet and watching a recorded lecture that was done before (and for) a live audience.

Huckleby wrote:I'm real skeptical of high school kids getting "educated" with speed computer courses.

The way I interpreted that article was that the troubled students were using online learning in conjunction with several other tools that were designed for a group of kids who just were not learning through traditional methods. The fact that the students received a good deal of one on one time was highlighted several times.
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