One Response to Potpourri

  1. Lawrence Zigerell February 19, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Some comments on the online education link:

    “Presumably we aren’t going to get a high-quality performance on the first take of all 30 hours…Multiple takes will add to the cost, as will the integration of special effects.”

    The perception that online education is limited to videos is a limitation of imagination.

    I teach in an online school that offers classes in which the teachers and students can communicate in real-time through chats, audio, webcams, emoticons, multiple-choice poll questions, and a screen for writing and images and presentations slides. Students can be placed into groups to interact with each other to solve problems, and students can create multimedia presentations that demonstrate mastery of material.

    Oh, and students sometimes watch videos.

    “I’m going to postulate that the number of people who genuinely cannot make it to a real-live classroom within a reasonable distance of their home is small. For most of the audience, I’m assuming that it’s a matter of convenience rather than real need — and the question is how much quality they’re willing to sacrifice for convenience that in many cases is going to be a relatively marginal gain.”

    The assertion of a presumed loss of quality from online education is perhaps better replaced with an identification of the tradeoffs of online education versus traditional education or some other model, so that students can evaluate the magnitude and shape of these tradeoffs.

    Presumably there might be more than a “relatively marginal gain” for the student who can complete the requirements of a fifteen-week course in five weeks or for students who have jobs that conflict with brick-and-mortar class meeting times, students who care for children and other family members, and students whose limited ability to travel or attend classes does not limit their desire or ability to learn.

    But even if online education is not suitable as a model for a university or for a university course, there is no reason that online education could not be incorporated into brick-and-mortar university classrooms. The internet and its accoutrements — like the book and the lecture and the classroom discussion and the classroom activity — are tools that teachers can use.