In case you haven’t noticed, online learning is everywhere. I have experienced it as a student and a teacher. Although there are actually many different types of online learning, there are three I see most often in organized education. One is where the course is laid out and the student just works through the lessons and assessments until proficient. This type has predetermined scores for proficiency, and the computer grades all assessments. Another one is where there is a teacher but the only communication is through email and forums, and the content is released on the teacher’s schedule. For this type the teacher creates the assessments and decides the final grade. A third type involves actual interaction with a teacher through online video conferencing. Like the last type the lessons and assessments are posted by the teacher on a website for students to use, but the students must video conference with the teacher on a certain schedule.
The most common comment I hear about online learning is, “ Students can’t learn without a teacher doing the talking.” Really? I have 5 years experience teaching a class where everything students learn is online. Yes I am in the room, but I am not the key giver of knowledge. The wonderful world wide web is where students get most of the information for their projects. I do believe there should be an adult in the room reminding students of their goals and there should be consequences when goals are not met in a certain amount of time. However, any subject could be learned in this manner…yes even math. Here’s a little secret. Most students would prefer to learn this way. For the past 5 years I have had over 80 students per year and every year I ask them what they prefer. I have not had one student yet that said they would rather sit in a classroom while the teacher talks then do work. All of them say they would like someone available to ask questions if needed but didn’t mind if they needed to email or video conference.
Now for those teachers who think I am trying to do away with their jobs, stop and think about it. Someone has to write the curriculum. Someone has to create the tasks. Someone has to be that person responding to emails or video conferencing. These people should be educated, certified people. We just need to rethink what our roles will be in the future. I hear educators use the phrase “what’s best for the students” all of the time. My question is do you really mean it?