There’s a discussion happening right now that you should know about. It’s about a little thing called the future of education as we know it. In case you didn’t notice, online learning platforms are sprouting up around the world. They’re enabling anyone with an Internet connection to get a better education.
When I say ‘better’ education, I mean it’s better than the ‘no’ education they’re currently getting. So I’m all for online education as long as it’s being used to educate people who would not normally be able to take the particular classes they’re enrolled in online.
“A Diploma Factory”
But what about students who are choosing to attend online schools instead of traditional colleges? What about the students who are simply replacing all in-classroom courses with online ones? That’s the big question being asked in various places online. Alexander Spring made one of the more notable cases in a recent Huffington Post article. He posited that “online education turns a center for learning into a diploma factory.”
Spring goes on to detail the social problems attached to online-only schooling as well as the fact that some online-only schools do not have deadlines that are as strict as brick-and-mortar classrooms. Whether it’s true or not, that’s what he writes. He then goes on to state “there is no thought being put into quality education anymore.”
So yea. This is quite an inflammatory piece. It’s supposed to be. As a technology integrator, it got my hackles up and felt like my love of education technology is wrong. Which is obviously not the case. Nor is it what he is saying.
The Discussion Is Underway
In my opinion, Spring is simply hoping for online schools to be better. He doesn’t really give any details on how that can happen but he’s at least started the discussion. Without getting into whether or not the article was well-researched, accurate, or even worthwhile… we can all agree that it has at least raised the level of discussion about the proper role of online schools.
Want to make your voice heard about the ‘ruin of education’ article? Add your comments to this article below so other readers can see what you have to say.
LinkedIn has one of my favorite discussion boards on this topic right now. The Technology In Education group (definitely worth joining!) has a few solid responses to the questions raised by Spring:
Richard G. • I believe that the original intention for online learning was to reach children in remote areas, e.g. the Australian Outback. However, many businesses began to use it for employees who were working, but who wanted to (or needed to) develop additional skills in connection with their employment.
By the time e-learning arrived at schools, the point of it seemed somewhat questionable – being a case for most of: “Find a way to use this” and not, “You need this – here you are!”
Many children and teachers wondered why they should engage in e-learning when there was a perfectly good classroom with full social interaction already in place. E-learning platforms became repositories for file storage and no actual “e-learning” took place through the platform.
Moving forward to the present day; we now have access to “smart” technology – beyond regular netbooks and mobile phones. Potentially, this opens up new opportunities for 2-way learning and teaching – anytime, anywhere – not just in the confines of a school. However, we are still some way off utilizing the potential of this in mainstream schools.
Online learning for its own sake is very different to regular principles of learning. Those who propose e-learning solutions are often oblivious to the need of learners to have proper social interaction and physical presence relationships. Whilst most young people are now used to social networking and using online communication, formal learning is still difficult if it wholly relies on screen to screen methods.
Christopher C. • Blended classrooms do a much better job than pure online classes. We have pure online classes that have teachers as babysitters and we have not seen a significant value in them. Our classes that are using blended or flipped models are doing much better.
Susana C. • I agree with Christopher. Is teacher’s resistance on embracing technology in the classrooms that creates this “apartheid”. Technology can enhance collaborative learning within the classroom and can also leverage the creation of a community of learning outside school walls, e.g, using skype, google docs, blogs…the “class” can become accessible 24/7 and promote ownership of students. Learning should be more focused on supporting the development of transferable skills…
Eric B. • Well put, Richard. Online “schools” seem like a low-cost, easy solution, but rarely is the best solution the easiest. Still, although a blended class is harder, it is becoming much easier to implement. As long as e teachers are engaged in it, the students will also find it very engaging.