The NY Times just ran an Op-Ed piece written by Mark Edmunson from Virginia Tech. The gist of the piece was that universities are heading too much, too fast in the way of online education. He offers some pretty sharp criticism of the online education and offers reasons for in-class education instead.
Mark Edmunson’s primary critique of online education is that the students have too little input in the courses. He describes many of his courses as “works in progress” and as tailored to the needs of both his individual students and his classes as a whole.
As a former TESOL instructor in South Korea, I can totally relate to his perspective. When I taught classes, most of the students were primed to learn, but some had difficulty participating directly in the classes because of shyness. Putting the students in groups and having them interact with each other in English was the primary method of facilitating discussion amongst the students.
A few years ago, the only option was to teach in person, but there are several ways to teach remotely that need more attention in higher education.
Three years ago, I taught with a cyber-school based out of Maryland whose primary objective was to teach English to Korean elementary school students in remote areas. South Korea is one of the most wired nations in the world. Using whiteboard software, we were able to have real-time classes with the students in Ulleuong-Do, which is a tiny island off the eastern coast of South Korea.
I showed up larger than life on their classroom screens to teach them issues; the Korean on-site tech site was always available to assist with a bad connection or when things went wrong. The beautiful part was that I got to teach from my own living room.
The classes were small enough so that I could individually interact with my students from a distance. The downside was that I couldn’t circulate around the classroom to check their work, so the students either had to read it or upload it using Marratech software.
Of course, nothing beats interacting with your students in person. For small sized courses, real time classes online make sense. For larger classes seen in big lecture halls, asynchronous classes make even more sense.