The State Of Virtual Education

The Chronicle Of Higher Education has a special report on virtual learning titled “Virtual Learning Goes Mainstream” which [so far] covers topics such as cost, convenience, pedagogy and profitability [not in the sense that it has been covered here or on The Bava, however]. While there is plenty of information to consume and consider in all of the separate articles, the lead sums things up quite nicely:

Will the classroom of the future be a virtual one, a face-to-face one, or a hybrid of the two? Yes to all of those.

The most important part in considering this, and what makes the statement from The Chron true,  is the applicability of of virtual learning in a given area at a given point in time.

The evolution of virtual education over the past 70 years has taken us from broadcasting courses on television to the simple CMS [the first “online courses” pre-ARPANET] to the completely mobile and virtual learning environments available today.

While the tools come and go [or were never fully utilized in the first place], it’s important to remember that as they evolve, their applicability changes as well. While it may have been unthinkable to teach a given subject in a virtual environment as little as 5 years ago, it is completely possible today. However, tool availability does not mean they are effective in practice. Nor are all tools equally effective for all students.

That being the case, it’s not likely we’ll see the complete dominance of any single pedagogical platform or technique in the immediate future, and we shouldn’t expect / strive for it either. What we should do is evaluate what’s available, apply when effective and remember “we’ve been inventing the future one step at a time”!


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4 Responses to The State Of Virtual Education

  1. Jim says:

    Yeah, this is right on, and what seems even more important now is the professors and students start discussing and framing, and defending why the teach a certain class using a specific technology (or set of technologies). What I am actually realizing with the Digital Storytelling class right now is that I actually have developed the class in many ways along side my thinking about the technology for the class, so it is so highly custom both in my mind and in practice. So suggesting this is the one-size-fits-all solution to delivering online or hybrid courses should really be an extension of the professors and/or the students own the relationship to the idea, its execution, and the way we think about how to share, discuss, and generally create.

    It seems more and more that that discussion should be a part of the class, which gives me an idea for the open course section of ds106, if it ever happens.

    • It seems more and more that that discussion should be a part of the class, which gives me an idea for the open course section of ds106, if it ever happens.

      I’m going to try that as well in my spring lab sections. I want to move the “point and click” part of the lab to the videos and utilize the lab time for actual software utilization and F2F help, but if the students want to take another direction, it will certainly be an option.

  2. I think that it could be each child has a computer, each computer has a program which teaches and a program which is constantly measuring what the child has learned and then adjusting the program that teaches the child. Programs that teach are always being updated to the students ability. It is constantly changing and not linear in what it measures so that it is adjustable to students who have different ways of learning.

    This is what the computer can do that a teacher cannot.This gets around the problem of teaching in a class room where a teacher has a limited amount of time and cannot work with each student individually.

    But there is still one central data base of knowledge to which each computer is linked and a comprehensive learning of this information is the standard.

    NOTE: A common data base of knowledge, such as Physics, does not have to be True Knowledge of Physics. Even now what students in elementary, middle and high school learn about physics, is for the most part unlearned later when they college. But what they learn is how to see and think in physics.

    However the other part of learning, i.e. student -teacher interaction needs to also happen.
    Now students can meet as a class with a human teacher who is free to lead discussion, interaction, arguments, etc. —what we might think of as the classical foundations of education.

    In summary, the computer can become the ideal teacher who would adjust his/her teaching method to the needs of each student if only they had the time, but no person has the time.

    But now the teacher can be freed up to conduct or lead a class of well prepared students in how to interact with knowledge with other people.

    But unless that computer program can instantly respond and restructure itself on the fly to the progress and development of the individual student, its the same as we have now in the classroom, except its just laying off the teacher.

    • Hi Steve!

      I think mobile computing should just be a method of delivery….the pedagogy still rests in the hands of the instructor.
      The same holds true for evaluation.

      We may one day reach a point where artificial intelligence can perform the tasks you mention, but I do not think it will happen very soon.

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