My opinion of online learning methods will change over time, but right now there is no need for me to trust any current online learning methods.
Why I Dislike Online Learning
I’ve taught more than 8,000 people in 5 different countries during my career. That was all in high school, college, community college and my first 10 years as a physician. In fact, I have numerous books that have been written about me (e.g. [email protected]) and they feature hundreds of people I have taught. Yes, it has been an incredible journey, but it has been one of inclusion.
Outside of that, I found it far more beneficial to the recipient of the information that I could not feed the machine myself (i.e. learn at a rapid rate). That process ended up being accomplished through online instruction and resources. I have left it up to online companies to handle that part of the process.
Here is where I have recently had a problem. In all the years that I have been teaching online, I’ve only heard a few criticisms from my students. However, in the few weeks that I have been on my own in teaching, I have had multiple complaints and complaints from students… after three weeks of active instruction.
No, I’m not suggesting that we should abandon all forms of media and instead move to some alternate form of teaching, even if it is not a book or magazine. The internet has grown into a very powerful asset for technology education. So, why am I such a complainer? Because there are two primary reasons why I do not like online learning.
Reason one is a concept I think is becoming more pronounced: it allows duplication of efforts. A lot of times we will run into situations when we teach an area of professional development that requires a module for 15 credits, and then, instead of having 2 high-quality modules, we run into the creation of 2 (possibly 10 or more) fast, but not very sophisticated modules because they are all too often made in house. This puts us at a disadvantage and it takes away from the experience of a student when you call on another educator with a tremendous amount of experience in the area of the instructor’s expertise.
An analogy I find very interesting is to consider having a nuclear reactor. We call it a reactor, but it is not a reactor. Nuclear engineers would tell you that it is very difficult to run a pure fission device. If you put your hand on a fission reactor you would see how high your hand would hurt. You can power a little goo out for a few seconds, but the core is not going to explode. It’s well known that the use of chemistry and other chemical elements produces explosions from time to time. If you put your hand on a homemade fission device and the parts are designed incorrectly, the core may explode. You have only a very small amount of energy and will be risking harm for no gain.
So, why do these “online” modules exist? I’ve heard people say, “we just want to expand the program in the degree for many people who aren’t able to come to an online course.” This is almost a forced idea of course. Do you imagine a soda manufacturer that make different sodas for their various markets? What if I told you that the differences between the English version and the Spanish version were about 30% different from each other? I would not want the consumer to spend $30 or more to “make” that amount of difference in taste. The same goes for online education.
I would much rather find an “online” curriculum that is more than just a quick and easy build. We have some courses in the corporation that are all documented and that are structured to create “short” courses with little modifications to move into the more in-depth portions of the course. Yes, the length of the course will differ (depending on the needs of a course), but the format will be the same. You can even mix it up on a customized level when it comes to structures.
Reason two is…for the first time in the history of teaching, we now have a problem of credentialing online learning courses. The Dept. of Education has listed certain times for them to be offered, but for the most part those have to do with content limitations. Why? Because courses in online instruction are not scalable, and you simply cannot be proficient enough to use the same format over and over.
What’s happening right now is a classic replay of what happened with book publishing. Many publishers in turn faced the reality that they couldn’t manage all the materials that were required, and so they began to create an online thing to create classware to create a seamless transfer of knowledge. I have known several universities that have done similar things.
Right now, the D.O.E. and related entities are taking steps that are making this problem worse. The first rule of publishing is if you can’t measure your gain, you can’t maintain it. It is just too difficult to track when it comes to online courses. How do you measure learning