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Which Learning Is Best Online Or Traditional
I was recently dragged to an online university to take some online courses but the destination – Cambridge University – turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Enrolled as a mature student, I had expected to major in some obscure subject. Instead, I was presented with an eclectic, engaging language course that turned out to be a master class in language studies. By the end of the first course, I could speak with confidence and authority. I am now an adept, and confident, speaker of French. And the world quickly warmed to me as I put my new skills to use. The ethos at Cambridge University I found by conducting research and follow-up was to give and take at Cambridge while working at the same time. This opened my eyes to online content and universities that don’t feel as cut off from the world as Cambridge did, in that I understood that the types of classes that I would need were not best delivered online or as traditional courses would. Additionally, by agreeing to be a PhD candidate and work remotely, I learned to accept the challenges of multitasking, rescheduling, and goal-setting. My time at Cambridge was like a lucky summer camp of sorts and, contrary to popular opinion, it was experiential and not structured. I was able to make my study strategy contingent on my events calendar and responding to the changes around me.
Unfortunately, while I will never be an “old” student again, many university programs of study are being “erased.” I have witnessed first-hand students graduating without the ability to contribute to global conversation, including social media, on their terms. As a student’s tutor, I was left to lecture on solutions to problems using their results. This model, heavy on supervision and watered down interaction with each student, is unacceptable. In this age of increased digital connectivity, the structure of institutions must be modified to foster increased inter-cultural awareness, global learning and self-expression. I was at least able to share my views in cross-cultural contexts, but there are many students whose voices are more scarce.
Inquiring minds are concerned about the existence of global institutions like the USA’s War College and the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. They are concerned that their subjects are graduating students who are unable to contribute effectively to global conversations. How can we justify global engagement in age of suspicion when the students who most need global exposure do not have it? At Cambridge, we embrace innovation. This enables us to seek creative solutions to issues. This makes us all better.
Is it possible that modern universities need to rethink their digital programs in order to evolve? We are asking some of the most acclaimed thinkers in fields such as language and intercultural communication. A handful of institutions across the world are taking steps towards adapting traditional learning methods to the digital age.
Many online universities were “endorsed” by The Lord Chancellor’s Office. Emphasizing learning through access, rather than ability to absorb content, they invite the public to be actively involved. They reject “information exclusion” in favor of openness. Rather than “circularity” and “integrity”, the schools support learning in context. In these schools, traditional curricula are all together “university” in terms of the principles they advocate for. They acknowledge and acknowledge how people study differently. But their ambition is to promote the principles of learning in one new way, rather than that of old.
Education is one of those things that carries, for better or worse, meaning. I continue to have fun, but the experience at Cambridge was unique. Cambridge challenges us to rethink how we interact with the world in today’s modern age.