We’re still learning about online education
Online education is now also beginning to be applied in the US secondary school system, and this is certain to grow based on current thinking expressed by the US secretary of education Arne Duncan.
Proponents argue that the cost of education can be lowered if we don’t need classrooms and lots of buildings, and they argue that a quality education can still be delivered. Even if you disagree with all of this, it seems we are being impelled in the direction of remote learning whether we like it or not.
Only last week two leading scientific journals Nature and Scientific American undertook a special collaboration with a collection of articles discussing digital education and what it means for learning, teaching and research.
Despite much apprehension about online learning it offers a way to escape from the traditional “sage on a stage” lecturing approach, suggests Michael Crow of Arizona State University a comment piece in Nature. He worries however about a possible dystopia where “the masses are taught by robots” while those who can afford to pay get real professors.
Meanwhile Duncan writing in Scientific American argues that the new technology as applied in the US secondary school system will help to individualise the student’s educational experience.
It all depends on how far one wants to take individualisation, and in the Netherlands it is pretty far, some might say extreme. In a trial in 11 schools there, the students will work under an iPad-only learning environment, with no paper, no books, no laptops and certainly no chalk.
“School” will be open from 7.30am till 6.30pm during the week and students will be able to come and go as they please so long as they are present during a core period from 10.30am until 3pm. The school year is a full year with the building only closed on Christmas and New Year and parents can schedule holidays any way they like.
The students won’t miss any classes because there won’t be classes as such, given they will stay connected to education via their tablets.
These are all interesting learning experiments, but the down side is that they are using humans as guinea pigs, potentially enhancing – or damaging – a student’s future prospects. Rote may be a dirty word in education these days but I doubt a third-level business or science faculty will want to have to teach their incoming first years their times tables or how to do percentages.