Monday, December 10, 2012

Online Education: Not a "One-Size-Fits-All" Approach

By Sean Scarpiello

As education moves online via programs like Khan Academy and Udacity, we are seeing many changes to the process of educating. Using online resources, both teachers and students are experiencing this huge shift in the conventional education process. For Stanley Thrun, the Stanford professor who started Udacity, this online jump has caused increased accomplishment in his Intro to Artificial Intelligence class. In 2011, he offered this class for free and many of his students in Stanford took the course. Surprisingly, 170 out of the 200 students in the course preferred the online version of the class. Most importantly, Thrun found that students taking the online course had significantly higher grades in the course than those students taking the class in the traditional method. So what does this mean for the future of education? To many, this sounds like schools and online programs will soon be pumping students through the education system like a factory. Others feel that everyone will receive a “one-size–fits-all” education that doesn’t take into account students' innate differences.

Although education appears to be moving in this direction, there are still many benefits education has in the online medium. First off, online education allows students to learn on their own terms and at their own pace. With online education, students won’t be forced to wake up at 6:00 in the morning and stumble into math class half asleep and hardly retain the material. More importantly, it allows students to learn the material at whichever pace they feel most comfortable, whether this be fast or slow. This holds true for classes like math and science where information is given to students, then they need to apply principles and concepts quickly. Currently in my physics class, we spend the first 20 minutes of class reviewing concepts, then the last 30 minutes going over a handful of problems. Many students feel we are moving at a fast pace. They are struggling to remember or understand the concepts, and then get further behind as the rest of the class moves forward solving the problems. Once these students begin to understand the concepts in class, it is too late, as the problems are already solved by the professor. Online education allows students to stop and start the lecture whenever they want. It also allows them to view the lectures multiple times so they can be sure to fully understand what is going on in class.

Also, with online education there is an abundance of videos and tutorials on class material available everywhere. For classes from English and Social Studies to Science and Math, websites like Khan Academy and, students can learn and solve problems at their own pace. One other benefit from these websites is that they are very diverse. This helps students out even more when it comes to learning because everyone thinks differently. In Math for example, a student can watch five (5) different videos on solving a long division problem and find three (3) different ways to solve them. Students are then able to pick and choose their favorite method or the easiest method for them to understand.

Probably the most important quality of most of these online education sites is that they are free. This is great because students can use them when they want and multiple times. There are no confusing accounts or passwords to deal with. Furthermore, when students are struggling with material the night before a big test, they can simply go online and get help instantly.

In all, it may seem that online education is inherently taking the differences of individual students out of the process of education. However, with closer examination, we see that is not all true. There are several benefits to online learning, as it allows students to learn at their own pace and get different perspectives, all at no cost. As education continues to advance in the online medium, we can expect even more changes, but as these changes come, we can still expect that the component of student individuality remains part of the learning process.



BSC (Hons) in Computing said...

Its all depends on students learning skills. Online educations make students life easier then ever to learn.

Anthony Hopper said...

I am not sure the shift is that marked or rapid. Entrenched ideas, institutions, and even people are slow to change.

Unknown said...

Not only students lives have become easier. Educators are happy to experience this, as well. It so convenient now to check online various works and proofread them. It is not necessary any more to put something btw lines, which is almost unreadable then. This site is a good example how cosy it is to interact via Internet concerning education field: admission essays. By the way, it will be of extreme use for prospective students.

Online learning said...

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