What Are The Statistics For Online Learning Vs. Traditional Learning?

According to an article in TheAtlantic, “Though companies have big ideas about what kind of classes will push individual academic achievement — from MOOCs (massive open online courses) to virtual classes on YouTube — much of the classroom experience still comes down to a set of individual decisions.

As a kid, I used to get that most famous statistic as my tableau on the Whiteboard in Science, the sheet of paper with the week’s expected numbers projected out in black and white. The projected numbers are ones that have the biggest effect on the answer to any problem, and most times they were wrong. The correct number is the number that has the smallest effect on the answer. The average middle school kid never took any math class in college, however. And now college dropouts have started to enroll in online learning programs as well, helping to fill the shortage in traditional colleges across the U.S.

For the past few decades, the number of students from low income backgrounds entering traditional college has basically not grown. And while people struggle to understand this, starting to receive the facts on the numbers matter a great deal. You might say that in the case of traditional education, which has been moving to a MOOC model (a “massive open online course”) it works to be a little more flexible and start serving a population that is under served.

In a section of the press release from Portland State University titled “Students Deserve More Choices and Resources,” Director of CSU Learning Strategies Josh Stafford says, “This is a new direction. No traditional campus can provide all the education someone would like to have.”

PSS: “A MOOC might be just right for a student who is low income, or might be a student who is curious and seeks to master basic material.”

The odd thing is, “low income” classifications can have a great deal of variability in quality, and some students are more successful using the MOOC model (as the students who are actually most able in the MOOC model will tell you), and some are less. Students go to different types of courses, and you have to tailor the offering and the resources and the opportunities of an online education to your needs as a student. Moreover, as in any business, if you have too much supply of someone’s product, you can cannibalize your sales. There are plenty of MOOCs about business and finance, finance courses that have a sizable teacher base, that don’t really focus on effective delivery and assessment. Anyone who’s used a e-mail address for any of the alternative education sites in recent years knows that it is possible to have many complaints about various people’s responses and what’s not happening. It could be another brand of college experience where a lot of great concepts, with poor communication and analysis that it certainly seems that e-mail was built on.

That said, I have a whole section of my blog dedicated to providing examples of what actually happen in MOOCs. I’ve talked about the different approaches of different MOOC providers, and what you see with each provider. These are the guys who are offering you a lot of personal mentoring and support, and a great deal of value is being offered in terms of making learning more of a process, facilitating one-on-one connections, and basically ensuring that students are able to focus on the real work when they’re offline, without the distractions and assistance of tools like Q&A. They are not only the nice people, but the kind of people I want my sons to take online classes with. They are the kind of people that I want to help, because they are really trying to help you.

Many companies are doing the same thing in other industries too, and there are places around the world where it has been one of the best investments the company has made. If you want to check out the story at the Economist, I would recommend a piece you might have never heard of called “The Riddle of Smart Investing.”

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