Mike Dariano

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The two biggest problems with online education (personal thoughts)

There are many things we enjoy that have never been equaled in the history of our planet.  Health care, the ability to eat, transportation and entertainment.  The list grows each day and starts anew with the next.  One area included in this growth is education.  MIT offers some course materials from classes over the last decade.  Coursera has current classes taught by current professors.  Kahn academy is a trove of videos that looks to cover each step in a curriculum – but I haven’t made it past their catalog listing.  With all this there are two problems. 

The first is an over reliance on videos.  The thought that if some is good then more is better is certainly in action with these sites and most evident in the videos they offer the learner.  Videos have always and will always be an inefficient way to learn because it takes much more time to watch than it would to listen or read the same material.  In some classes the videos are a nice addition but I would prefer a supplemental audio.  The videos also assume that the instructor does a good job lecturing on them which university professors haven’t mastered yet.  It’s one thing to have a good rapport with a lecture hall of students and another to engage with students via a video chat.

The second problem is the structure of the few classes I’ve taken.  They both still follow the model of teaching via a fixed and planned route rather than being adaptive and learner driven.  This is inherent in the rawness of online education but something that will need to be figured out before the online world comes even close to the real one. In real classes students have projects and assignments where they pursue their own path to a specific problem or domain pinnacle.  Oddly enough, they can do this because and instructor and their assistants know enough about a subject to determine if the path a student took was appropriate or not.  In the online world the services are trying to cater to so many people that having an actual human do it would be unmanageable and creating an program to serve is that role is currently too complicated.

Saying that I was nitpicking these two areas would certainly be the case because this evolution is often less than five and always less than ten years old.  I hope that as it moves into its teen things get better – which they should.

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