What Are Limitations Of Students Synthesizing Learning Online

When discussing online educational courses, people often state that “they can get stuff done better than you”. This statement is often based on understanding that the class being discussed uses a specific skill to do the work.

What Are Limitations Of Students Synthesizing Learning Online

Students at colleges and universities are increasingly turning to a form of online education, known as MOOCs (massive open online courses). Known for their ability to create big data from students’ online videos and questions, MOOCs are widely considered one of the fastest ways for people to learn, as they focus on specific niche areas. And much like a brick-and-mortar college, MOOCs can accommodate everyone, young and old, affluent and working class—all of which can successfully take online courses.

However, MOOCs have come under scrutiny in recent months as more than 50 institutions were accused of altering student data from online classes, sometimes by deleting comments students made in class or scrubbing entire lessons from students’ knowledge. In November 2017, the Institute for Distributed Educational Networks at Carnegie Mellon University provided a database of results from some 200 different “affinity groups” whose members shared and used MOOC question and answer tool, driven by students who they said helped them do well in class. Carnegie Mellon said this database allowed the institution to better understand the involvement and propensity of its students. The database included a table of MOOC statistics that showed how, on average, the most active question and answer groups in a MOOC outranked the most diligent question and answer groups.

In March of this year, the American Association of University Professors, an umbrella organization for more than 6,000 colleges and universities, made a statement comparing schools that accepted online courses to receiving “free courseware that you don’t need to read.” More recently, Google announced that it was taking steps to eliminate “illicit ‘experiments’ that attempt to game the system,” including targeting students by gender, race, religion, and class.

If we look at the motivation behind false scandals and questionable methods in MOOCs, it makes sense why the integrity of these programs can come into question. MOOCs have increasingly become a popular way for organizations to save money and increase revenue, and colleges are extending themselves in new ways to try to stay profitable. Additionally, the majority of courses available are conducted exclusively online—a way to cut expenses on property costs while expanding student offerings and reaching untapped audiences.

Online education is certainly convenient, but it does have some limitations, both good and bad. Here are three of them.

1. Poor Representation: The most controversial MOOC scandal in recent months involved IDEO, an engineering firm founded in 1973. As reported by Education Week, IDEO has worked with Cornell University and University of Illinois-Chicago for its Advanced Technology Laboratory for 21st Century Learning, as well as several other universities in the United States and Europe. This program and others have cut costs and created revenue by selling their in-classroom learning materials.

IDEO’s program, which ostensibly connects the company with diverse student populations who would not have attended a typical university, turns out to be an absolute scam when the methods the company uses to access and gather student information are questionable.

For example, a four-week course aimed at the Middle East, which offered 90 master’s degrees, was promoted by IDEO as two weeks of online classes followed by two weeks of in-person classes. However, Education Week revealed that only six of those 90 courses were conducted online and only three of the three in-person sessions were actually available. Using this methodology, IDEO would then resell a package that included 90 online courses and a semester worth of self-study books and study guides. That’s a successful approach to not only fill seats in classes that normally wouldn’t have been filled, but also raise students’ salaries in the process.

IDEO’s stated motivation behind selling this level of access to students’ data is ostensibly to develop innovative new solutions to the challenges of university education—a noble goal that universities should consider implementing in response to rising costs of education and outdated ideas that traditional education is the best way to prepare students for the real world. Instead, the company is giving students’ own self-study data to publishers, booksellers, and device manufacturers in exchange for a small salary boost for the staff responsible for creating its course materials. Essentially, IDEO is unethical, and often hampers universities’ ability to tailor resources to their students’ needs.

2. Marketing to Textbook-lessons: Some MOOC courses are intended to be conversation pieces, said to complement, not replace, a students’ college textbook. These efforts to keep a college class alive while reducing costs by keeping more copies in stock does draw attention to textbook prices, which are often unattainable for most students.

But students shouldn’t be duped by false promises of new and exciting courses. Instead, they should be skeptical of claims that online programs can produce more effective teaching practices and make them valuable while saving money. Rather than being laughed at for being overpriced, options like MOOCs can prove beneficial in the long run.

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