Online What?

Mr. Leggett and I had an interesting discussion last week about the efficacy of online learning. I dismissed the very idea as implausible; in so many words, he insisted that online classes are simply part of what schools need to learn to do well in order to stay relevant in the future. Unless I misunderstood him, he looks at blended learning as an ideal to which we can aspire.

I’m not quite so curmudgeonly as to suggest that the internet has no place in education. It has made research less expensive and more expansive; it puts the universe on a small screen; it certainly entertains, and it can educate.

My issue with online classes has to do with their abysmal quality–the pedagogy class I had to take to earn a teaching license from the state of Mississippi was an absolute farce, an embarrassment to this profession–the potential for fraud, and the lack of depth they provide. I won’t bore anyone with the details of the class I had to take online, but I have no idea how teachers can monitor the work online “students” submit to make sure the work is their own. Nor do I see how a 300-word blog entry on [insert required reading here] could be a fitting substitute for the exchange of ideas made in a real (not virtual) community of engaged learners. Would many people you know actually complete the MSMS curriculum if they tried to do it at home? Would it even be worthwhile to try?

I’m not so sure it would be. Part of the richness of this experience comes from living on the most diverse city block in Mississippi. Part of it comes from being in the same room with superb teachers and like-minded peers. Part of it comes from being away from home and learning how to deal with screwing up.

Saying no to an online education may unfit me for the future. So be it. Thank goodness, in this case, Mississippi is so far behind the curve. Here’s to hoping that the future, if it involves online classes, is some place way on down the road.

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One Response to Online What?

  1. Maggie Ford says:

    I believe online classes are not as effective for most subject courses. Not calling names, but my sister took online Spanish 1 and 2 and received a near perfect average, but she does not know any Spanish. I learned more in the first week of my Spanish 1 class at home than she did a year long course! I do, however, find some videos online about material already covered to be helpful. If I do not understand how to work a problem in Calculus, I can simply go to youtube and watch as many videos as I need on the topic at hand. There is still a good amount of human interaction in these videos, though. Personally, I believe online classes can be successful, but the optimum way to teach someone is face-to-face.

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