Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Online Courses

I have been critical of online courses because of their lack of interaction between teacher and student and because they are not amenable to the best teaching methods.  The New York Times has published an editorial that is also critical of online courses.

The editorial states, "First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed."

The writer continues, "Online classes are already common in colleges, and, on the whole, the record is not encouraging. . . .  The picture the studies offer of the online revolution is distressing."

"Lacking confidence as well as competence, these students need engagement with their teachers to feel comfortable and to succeed. What they often get online is estrangement from the instructor who rarely can get to know them directly."

However, "Interestingly, the center found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming."

A commentor added, "Online education is inferior for role modeling to students, assisting struggling students and allowing students to learn from each other in in-class discussions (which are in NO way replicated by online discussion boards)."

In sum, learning needs teacher and student interaction.  You may be able to do that remotely, but not in large classes.

(Scott Fruehwald)


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