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Wed Jan 16, 2013, 09:53 PM

Online courses need human element to educate

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/15/opinion/rushkoff-moocs/index.html?iref=allsearch



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First off, subjects tend to be conveyed best in what might be considered their native environments. Computers might not be the best place to simulate a live philosophy seminar, but they are terrific places to teach people how to use and program computers.

Second, and just as important, computers should not require the humans using them to become more robotic. I recently read an account from an online lecturer about how -- unlike in a real classroom -- he had to deliver his online video lectures according to a rigid script, where every action was choreographed. To communicate effectively online, he needed to stop thinking and living in the moment. That's not teaching; it's animatronics.

Online learning needs to cater to human users. A real instructor should not simply dump data on a person, as in a scripted video, but engage with students, consider their responses and offer individualized challenges.

The good, living teacher probes the way students think and offers counterexamples that open pathways. With the benefit of a perfect memory of student's past responses, a computer lesson should also be able to identify some of these patterns and offer up novel challenges at the right time. "How might Marx have responded to that suggestion, Joe?"

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Reply Online courses need human element to educate (Original post)
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 OP
Iris Jan 2013 #1
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 #2
Igel Jan 2013 #3

Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 10:10 PM

1. Call David Horowitz. He said "Marx"!!!!! n/t

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Response to Iris (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 10:15 PM

2. LOL.

That's probably why right-wingers really want to replace teachers with animatronics. Every so often one of us pops off with teh "M-word!"

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Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:14 PM

3. And sometimes the human element has to be on the receiving end.

It's why it's a generally bad idea for anything below college.

I've been videoing my content presentations. It's a bear, because I haven't scripted them.

No script = leave stuff out, repeat stuff, mis-emphasize stuff, waste the viewer's time. You got 10 minutes for what you have to say, you don't have time to screw around, lose your train of thought or, even worse, explore a tangent. Do those things and you spend three times the amount of time recording and 5x the amount of time editing. To produce what a script would have said.

Downside of script: You just read it and it becomes rather less than just boring.

Downside of videoing: You can't consider questions, engage with students knowing anything about them, and follow up with questions or tailor your presentation to their interests.

Upside of videoing: You don't have to be there, you can shove the content presentation out of the classroom and put questions and practice and projects in the classroom. This is a novel, cutting-edge idea. Of course, it's just what they used to do when I was in school in the late '60s and '70s. Now instead of "read pages 78 through 93 and answer questions 1, 3, 4, and 5"--knowing that if you have questions you can ask them and that reading those 16 pages isn't the end of learning the material--you get a video.

In fact, most of the upsides and downsides are precisely the same that we used to have when we had *real* teachers and used, well, books. Online prepackaged-only courses are like ICS and other correspondence school courses. The online courses I've taken have been a lot more like the self-paced college courses I had in the late '70s. You read, you do practice, and if you have questions then you interact with a real person. Then if the enrollment's small it work--but if there are 200 students, then it's like interacting with the lecturer in a hall with 199 students.

The problems with this haven't changed. Good students have learned to engage with the material, to issue their own challenges and do all the stuff that Ruskhoff says teachers should do. Bad students resist engaging with the material, responding to teacher-issued challenges, and see as pointless all the stuff that Rushkoff says teachers should do. Those that really benefit from having teachers are the mediocre and the gifted. The mediocre, because they want to engage and respond to challenges, but can't do it on their own and can't come up with challenges, and the gifted because they push the teacher into areas that the course wouldn't usually include.

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