Monday, February 27, 2012

How Will Web Learning Stack Up?

Alan Jacobs, writing in The Atlantic, asks the question: MIT Online vs. Your Local College: How Will Web Learning Stack Up? This is a thoughtful article that poses the question at a time when more and more Colleges and Universities are making their courses available on-line for anyone to view. Excellent classes, but no course fees, and crucially - no certification. Will employers value such education?

Image link to Atomic Robotics.
Is a potential employee, who claims to have completed a free open course at MIT, better/same/worse than a graduate with a parchment representing a degree in their hand? 

Jacobs also questions whether current practice of "universities that have sought an online presence have tended to put their best lecturers online -- the people with the most dynamic personal presences" is wise. Are we going to get the best teachers all the time? If a lecturer or teacher is crap in the classroom, they'll likely be crap on-line too? Will people learn from on-line lectures? The National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine, state that average student retention rates for lectures is just 5% after 24 hours. Unless you take notes and revise, you will forget 95% of what you hear! This may be true in the on-line environment too?

However, I do think the day will come when students will be able to take modules from different locations on-line - and get accreditation for it. Imagine a degree programme today with 30 modules all delivered in the same College changing to 30 modules from 30 of the best teachers from the 30 best Universities?

Potentially - 30 people could teach every student in the world, for a computer science degree! Imagine that!

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