Thursday, April 15, 2010

Online Learning -- Is It Right For Schools?

I am somewhat bothered by current discussions to take our school's courses online. Part of my concern is that some people see it as a money making opportunity. I'm not opposed to the idea but too often the opportunity to make (or save) money overshadows the pedagogical choices we make in how we design our schools.

I have a hard time getting my arms around the idea that our classes can somehow be taught better online then they are taught in the classroom. I have yet to see that be the case.

Mostly I don't believe we should loose the direct contact our teachers have with our students.

All of us, especially young people, spend an increasing amount of time online:

"Average number of hours a U.S. child aged 8 to 18 spends using an electronic device or watching television each day: 7.6" - Harpers Index, April 2010 (from Kaiser Family Foundation study 2009).

What we need in education is more time spent engaging with each other as humans and less time engaging with each other via electronic media.

Do I believe we should be using more interactive tools in education then we currently use? Yes, of course we do. This does not necessarily mean we ought to be teaching our courses entirely online. Are there opportunities to open a new world of learning through online courses? Yes, but this does not mean all or even most of our courses make sense being taught online.

Even though the tools of online learning have improved significantly over the past two decades they still remain simply that -- tools. Tools for the educator to use (or not use) depending on the subject and content. We should use these tools wisely and make sure we stay in touch with our human side.


Marlon Dlouhy said...

Hmm, you have a good point @ more time spent engaging with each other as humans and less time engaging with each other via electronic media. But it would also be good to use technology to improve the field. It is a good idea, but a good idea can't be good at all when the results are poor. Well, it all depends on the student, and how he perceives things and issues like this one.

Brad Lakritz said...

Thanks for your comment Marlon. That's the point, technology can be good for education as long as the results of it's use help us achieve our goals as educators. If not then we should employ other methods.