Online education charlatans assume that all students are self-motivated.

15 05 2011

There is a big fat wet kiss to online education in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today. It’s filled with passages like this one:

Officials at area colleges said most faculty have embraced online learning. Many teach hybrid or blended courses, in which students spend some time in the classroom and the rest online. Some teach only online.

But here’s where I think they let a little truth slip in between the propaganda:

“It’s all on you,” [Sgt. Joshua] Falso said of the biggest difference between sitting in a classroom and taking a course online. “You have to buckle down and manage time correctly to do the tests and research papers.”

Folso is a 25-year old student from Cleveland, and I’m guessing that being in the Air Force has made him self-motivated. Still, reading him say that jogged my memory of a UD post from earlier this week which explained that Ohio is also at the forefront of a national push for online high schools. This is the part of that post which nobody in education should ever forget:

Turns out their graduation rates are pathetic. Dedicate two seconds of your brain power to the online experience as experienced by a fifteen-year-old and you’ll get there.

Now, I don’t think anyone is going to dispute my assertion that there are plenty of college students who are about as self-motivated as the average fifteen-year old. I don’t think anyone will dispute that direct supervision – the kind provided by face-to-face classes – can mitigate that problem. There’s a Tenured Radical post up today about here experiences with online learning. She seems to have had a lovely time with it, but then again she had two meetings a week with her students and they met with a teaching assistant outside of class. Unfortunately, as one of the comments on that Plain Dealer article explains:

As a university professor who has taught both online and ground classes, there is a tremendous difference between the two. Universities offer online classes not to educate, but to generate revenues and stay competitive with all the other schools offering online classes. Referring to online classes as hybrid or blended courses is just a means to attempt to legitamize them. There are some colleges that do not allow any scheduled classes or meetings for online classes – communication takes place via emails or posting on the online classroom.

So, in our continuing quest to define exactly what it takes to be an online education charlatan,* assuming that all students are self-motivated seems like a pretty good criterion. After all, you may think they’re doing their work, but there’s nothing to stop them from spending the whole day playing pool. Is it possible to teach boys band online?

* By the way, from now on everyone who uses the phrase “online education charlatan” must send me a nickel.


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3 responses

15 05 2011
Middle Seaman

My job is not to motivate students as in being willing to apply themselves. They are adults and I am not their parent, guardian or priest (imam or rabbi). I can bring the water and even sweeten them, but I cannot make them drink; I also refuse to do it.

I still think that in order to win the war we to be on the offensive. Complaining about the authorities will do nothing to either the quality of education or the survival of this country that seems hell bound to shot itself in the head.

We should always try new technologies; it will do good for students, teachers and universities. The Tenured Radical approach should be refined and tried widely. It’s a real intellectual challenge to teach well online. We should face it and learn from it.

Armed with the right educational technology we will perfect, overcoming the assassins will be easy.

16 05 2011
Music for Deckchairs

Well … we online charlatans (ker-ching!) are having the same doubts as you. That is, while ten years ago an online class was sufficient novelty to generate high levels of engagement and even something akin to wonder, it’s now a different fish.

Students are now more or less permanently online (am I the only one who’s finding it harder to get through doorways now that I meet a stream of students leaving the room who are already back on FB via their iPhones?) and I suspect this is exactly why they’re finding it harder to marshall the time to organise their online class contribution. They’re exhausted with connectivity.

So I’m currently trying to decide what to do with an opportunity to connect one of my classes to a similarly sized, similarly preoccupied class in Arizona — and believe me, this is pretty great for Australian students who haven’t yet had the chance to travel internationally — but at the same time, I’m wondering if it’s time to come in from the badlands of online teaching and get respectable with some face to face classes.

This is a decision I have to make this week for next year, and it’s one that’s causing me some considerable searching of my charlatan soul.

16 05 2011
Jonathan Rees

MfD:

Online education charlatans don’t have consciences so I guess my future revenue stream is out the window. Oh well.

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