What Aspects Of Online Learning Contributed To My Learning

Charles McArthur writes about his own journey of online learning after a couple of failed attempts at traditional lectures.

By Charles McArthur

When my coworkers and I had lunch at our local spot near campus, while filling up from the water fountain I noticed a group playing arcade games. As the patron behind the wheel started to whiz around and out, I was astounded that our target demographics, the women with families, were actually sitting in the same place as the men, like tourists in a giant tourist attraction.

It turns out that the truth behind the memes about the US wage gap is that the average family income in the U.S. is now only around 10 percent more than it was 10 years ago. For women with children, the gap is greater — only 2 percent.

It is surprising to realize the differences in experiences and expectations between men and women, both for the workplace and education, as well as their status in the workforce. For women, the media goes out of its way to show that the days of men dominating, and women taking back, those spaces are gone. This reflects the reality that we still have a lot of work to do in supporting women and girls in these spaces. But when it comes to education, the times are changing.

Increasingly, women are starting at the highest rungs of education, which seems contrary to the media narrative that we are getting left behind. According to the OECD’s 4th Annual Education Progress Reports, women represent an increasingly higher portion of students in the senior years of higher education. In the United States, women now represent 31 percent of university graduates, while in Finland that number is 55 percent. By 2030, it is projected that 40 percent of university students worldwide will be women. The numbers are similar in primary and secondary schools.

What are the women who excel in education finding?

Spiralling school costs seem to be a major concern for many women. According to new research from the University of Cape Town, women students in particular are being financially burdened by student loan debts. Because the amount of total student debt accrued by women is a smaller proportion of total student debt, compared to men, their overall student debt levels are also lower.

The appetite for courses focusing on teaching in an effort to build individual knowledge and adaptiveness in the classroom is one of the most clearly manifested impacts of female students. In India, the number of women in the teacher’s college and university has grown by an astounding 1,000 percent in the last five years alone. I am surprised by how fast the worldwide trend is developing, but pleasantly surprised. I fully expect that once women become more confident in their educational aspirations and credentials, girls and women around the world will outperform boys and men on more challenging, institutionalized, and in some cases curriculum demanding courses. I am also surprised that we as men seem to now be more aware of the challenges that we now face and are dedicated to addressing them.

The skill-based diversity in learning, exemplified by a personal learning style called MOOC (massive open online course) appears to have been something of a game changer. Instinctively, I assumed that MOOC’s and others of their ilk would cause an erosion of general education requirements in universities, as students will now have more online options to study for bachelor’s degrees. But what is surprising is the persistence of the style.

I personally was drawn to MOOCs from my experiences as a filmmaker in my early twenties. When I would attend university, I would take classes that my fellow classmates and I had no idea how to transfer to. These classes were many times long, outdated, and rarely enriched my knowledge and challenged me in any meaningful way.

New learning environments bring a wealth of unique and unexpected opportunities for how people can engage with one another, learn from one another, and ultimately more effectively contribute to their local communities and the world. With this I believe that it is time for men to increasingly engage in bringing these new and exciting resources to bear on education.

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