I’m sitting in my local coffee shop, considering what I want to write about and directly across from me a college-aged girl and her mother are having an argument because the girl didn’t sign up for her college courses early enough.
The mother suggested that she take some online courses. The girl was almost offended.
“I don’t want to take an online course because that’s not REALLY learning!”
That strikes me as interesting. It makes me wonder what – in the mind of a person with such a mindset – is “really learning.”
There’s plenty of research on what learning is and how it works, but I’m going to run on the assumption that this particular girl hasn’t considered pedagogical theory on any level deeper than, say, gut feeling.
Let’s make a list of what might make for this so-called “real learning” in an off-line world (list time!):
- A building with a communal gathering space
- A professor you can interact directly with
- The campus experience
- Saran-wrapped muffins
OK, the muffins I get – really. When I saran-wrap my own muffins, they’re just not the same.
Let’s be honest here, with modern technology we can interact in real-time with our professors and classmates, have quicker and more modern (read: updated on the fly) materials, and we can do it all in our pajamas.
I’d venture to guess that this girl wasn’t actually talking about learning at all. She’s talking about the infamous “college experience”
We’re in an interesting cultural shift. We know that learning online is becoming the realistic future of the university system, and yet we cling onto the idea that somehow brick and mortar makes our experience more valid than 1s and 0s.
I am in no way discounting the college experience. I believe that it’s hugely important, and in fact part of the reason that “No one’s got the model that’s going to work yet” is specifically that people haven’t figured out how they can build a social experience similar to the college setting without the college setting.
I’ll leave that to other creative entrepreneurs to figure out, but I might suggest that the seeds of those experiences are sprouting through Meetup and other sources that are working to connect strangers through shared interests.
Back to really learning:
I took an online program for my Master’s Degree specifically because I knew that the future of teaching and learning is online, and I wanted to make sure I had gone through the experience as a student.
If you haven’t taken an online course, webinar, etc in the last year or so, your vision of the online experience might be somewhat dated.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine got his Master’s Degree online with some variety of this basic Blackboard layout:
If your vision of Online Learning isn’t a significantly closer to this, you’re waaay off base:
- Live face-to-face interaction with your professor.
- See your classmates faces instead of the back of their heads (better than “real life” ?)
- Share ideas in live chat boxes without interrupting the professor or the classmate who is speaking
- Share notes instantly
- Break out into chat sessions with any number of classmates, and then come back into the class
- Record everything for replay anytime in the future.
- Etc, etc, etc.
THIS IS HOW YOU ARE GOING TO TEACH IN THE FUTURE.
Actually, I’m lying. It will be more advanced than this. I like to think of this as the ‘toddler’s steps’ of new education.
Wait a minute – maybe we can REALLY learn online.
What do you think? Have you taken online courses? Removing the physical aspects of the experience, do you feel that the learning itself was any different either in a good way or a bad way? Leave a comment below and let me know, I’d like to hear about it.