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Friday, May 9, 2014

Online education and Online degrees are dead; now let's move on to something real


I have been working on online education in one form or another for over 30 years. I am now ready to declare online education officially dead. I am doing this because for me, at least, online education meant a chance to use the computer as a device whereby people could do something, have a simulated experience, kind of like an air flight simulator but for any aspect of life you wanted to try out.  But now universities have adopted online education wholesale. They are producing gabage. No, actually they are producing what they have always produced:

Take a look at this lecture from MIT that is now on line:



Or, take a look at these three from Stanford that are part of their MOOCs




Or, take a look at some Udacity or Coursera courses. They look suspiciously like the boring lectures most students skip out on when they can. Nothing has changed. Now the lecture course, which was always the worst aspect of college education, is being made available to millions. 





Why? Everyone daydreams through these kinds of things anyway and then later they cram for the final. Can you remember any lecture you heard in college? Try and tell it to someone.  

Every university is producing this stuff and in doing so, they are killing the very idea of changing education by the use of teachers who are not nearby who could help you learn to do something in a simulated experience when you needed them.  

What is education? Its an experience, mentored by an expert, in which the student tries to accomplish something, fails, and then after some discussion with peers and mentors, tries again.

This is not a new idea, Most PhD programs work this way. But since universities care about undergraduates just enough to require a thousand of them to fill a lecture hall, now they are doing it online so the numbers can get much bigger. It's all about money. (And, to be honest, the fear of seeming to be falling behind.)

So, while I am declaring online education dead, because every university is doing it and the market will soon be flooded with crap, I am not declaring the idea of a learning by doing mentored experience dead.

So, I  propose a new name, Mentored Simulated Experiences. 

Let’s build those and change education from listening to doing. It is not that hard folks, it requires caring about students and real learning. Well, maybe that is too much to expect.

As an aside, I have heard through the grapevine that big corporations are now refusing to hire people with online masters degrees as result of looking more carefully at the much vaunted Georgie Tech MOOC in Computer Science. EVen big corporations know that just listening and passing tests is not exactly the path to expertise.

Students need Mentored Simulated Experiences not online degrees.

24 comments:

Beth said...

I like the name "Mentored Simulated Experiences."

And you're exactly right, Mentored Simulated Experiences are the best (perhaps the only) way to truly learn.

Thanks for posting this.

Vince A said...

Hi Roger,
I recently discovered you and I'm currently reading two of your books (Coloring outside the lines + The creative attitude).

There's one or two questions I'd like to ask. Not sure if I would get a reply if I post them here -- do you monitor these comments?

Thanks

Paul Stinson said...

Can you post some links to examples or more information on mentored simulated experiences?

Roger Schank said...

http://www.xtolcorp.com/courses/see-a-demo/

http://www.xtolcorp.com/course/master-in-ecommerce-entrepreneurship/

http://www.uols.org/en/study-at-uols/masters-and-postgraduate-degrees/online-mba-experiential-master-in-business-administration-mbaol

http://www.ebusiness.cs.cmu.edu/

Tim McClung said...

And to follow up even more

http://futuretense.newamerica.net/events/2014/hacking_the_university

Tim McClung said...

and to add even more food for thought

http://futuretense.newamerica.net/events/2014/hacking_the_university

Roger Schank said...

to contact me, find my email address on my websites and I will respond

Tucker Balch, Ph.D. said...

>> I have heard through the grapevine that big corporations are now refusing to hire people with online masters degrees as result of finding -- big surprise, that graduates of the much vaunded Georgie Tech MOOC in Computer Science, actually don’t know much about Computer Science.

There are two problems with that statement. The first is that most of the students in our online program are *already* at big corporations. The second problem is that the program has only been underway for one semester. There are as of yet, no graduates.

Aaron B. said...

While I agree with some of the concerns here, please know that the Georgia Tech/Udacity program just started with its students this past January (as in 4 months ago). So I don't know what grapevine that is, but since you command a significant audience I thought you should know.

Roger Schank said...

the actual comment from the big corporation was they now didn't believe in online degree programs because of MOOCs and had asked Ga Tech to differentiate between MOOC graduates and regular graduates and GT had refused. this resulted in this company refusing to hire any more online graduates from anywhere; this, in my opinion, is a serious issue brought on by the obvious silliness of lectures and tests without mentoring of real work done being taken seriously as education

abovenyquist said...

Roger, Tucker's criticism is still valid. Saying "big corporations are now refusing to hire people with online masters degrees as result of finding -- big surprise, that graduates of the much vaunded Georgie Tech MOOC in Computer Science, actually don’t know much about Computer Science" is simply wrong. You and/or companies may *expect* that graduates of the OMSCS may not know much about Computer Science, but anyone claiming that that has been *proven* by looking at the actual (currently non-existent, since the program just started) graduates of the program is misinformed.

I am a tremendous fan of your work and your blog and am sad to see it containing any misinformation. You easily fix it by replacing that phrase with your post in your comment above with the "actual comment from the big corporation" you note above.

laserblue said...

I agree with you. Now, how about quitting the lecture circuit and creating a Mentored Simulated Experience for Educators?

Roger Schank said...

exactly what I intend to do; we have built it; we need to find ways to get our mentoring course and our tool to build mentored experiences into the hands of the public; assemble some folks and we will show up

laserblue said...

On the one hand, giving speeches and lectures is a way of making yourself and your ideas known and promoting your products. You definitely have presence on the web! On the other hand, let me remind you that you keep saying that giving these lectures is against your educational principles, so how about getting real and teaching the teachers a lesson by creating an online Mentored Simulated Experience for Teachers? Can you do it?
A short note from my
Simulation, Multimedia, Interactive Learning Environment.

LuAnne Lemke said...

At least in some online education experiences, you are required to interact via two-way communications using online message boards sharing information, knowledge, research, experiences, asking questions, working through problems, while learning in a virtual environment. Sorting in a lecture hall on campus doesn't allow this same opportunity.

Carry Stuart said...

Online education just like any other learning ways have downfall. It is what it is. The thing is as students or users, are we using it the way it should be? We do have different learning curves and we do need to consider and not just jump on whatever is there. We do have eLearning, one on one method, classroom-based etc. as options to choose, so choose appropriately what is best for you.

Roger Schank said...

It is impossible to teach teachers to build online experiences unless their administration backs with by being willing to offer them and allowing them (or others) to do the hard work that is involved; more than happy to teach such folks

Paul Miller said...

The fact big corporations may shy away from hiring
Mooc graduates means little given they are some of the strongest supporters of the traditional degree system. The doors that open for the super successful college grads still are clear and present regardless of its true value. As far as the GT Mooc students go, they are limiting entrants to those who have a proven record of toleration for the rigorous game of fact accumulation via the lecture method.

Dennis J Frailey said...

I've been teaching via distance education for over 40 years. My courses do have a lecture element, mainly so the students can "time shift" (watch at their convenience) and can watch those parts they find useful (many rewind and review as often as they wish), but the real learning comes in the student assignments, which have been carefully honed over the years to work in conjunction with the other course artifacts to produce actual learning that is demonstrated by results. The effectiveness is bimodal. Some students take it seriously, do the work, and produce outstanding results. Others think they can avoid the work and end up with permanent grades of "incomplete" or else failure. The on-line aspect makes the courses accessible to many who would otherwise not be able to get a degree due to their location, their job, or their other life circumstances. For example, I've had a number of active military students who've gone on to successful careers without ever physically coming to the school (Southern Methodist U). They praise the on line courses. So while it may be true that MOOCs (many done by "Johnnie come lately's" to the on-line world) are on the way out and it is certainly true that some on-line instructors don't take the time and effort to make their courses fit the on-line mode, one shouldn't assume that all on-line courses are ineffective. Until alternative approaches serve those who cannot come to traditional campuses, good on-line courses will have their place. This does not preclude innovation. We've innovated for 40+ years and are now experimenting with "course flipping" aspects.

thinkingwiththings said...

Why simulated? Why not just Mentored Experiences, some of which will be online?

Dennis J Frailey said...

After looking at the examples shown, I certainly understand some of the objections. All they did is record conventional classroom lectures. I've been doing on line education for over 40 years at SMU and we do things quite differently. For one thing, the lectures are recorded in a professional quality recording studio/classroom with considerably more careful thought given to the legibility, visibility, and audio quality of what is said and shown. But it's more than that. We design student assignments in such a way that the learning occurs when they do those assignments - the lectures act as a sort of textbook supplement. Students can look at whatever portions they find helpful. But more importantly they can "time shift" - watch the lectures when it's convenient for them. They can also repeat materials they didn't get the first time.

Our results speak for themselves. We have more people taking the on line courses than coming to the classroom, even for those in the local area. And they give us high praise overall (although there are a few faculty members who refuse to change to fit the new technology and they are avoided by the students whenever possible).

In short, on line education can be very effective if you take the time to design the educational experience around the features and limitations of the technology.

Mark said...

So not MOOcs but MeSi Experiences, I like MeSi for all kinds of reasons. we need it to be MeSi.

Great post. Kiitos (Thanks)

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I agree with "thinkwiththings"—simulation is not an important component. In fact, I've found that working with real things is much more inspiring and productive than working with simulations of those things. Certainly in my intro to electronics course, the students learn a lot that is not captured by electronics simulators (like how to solder, capacitive coupling of 60Hz noise, what happens when power is applied backwards to an op amp or electrolytic capacitor, and so forth).

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen said...

The beauty of the latest online learning things are that they allow educators and administrators to be innovative (and left alone) while doing exactly what they have always done.

This was the reasons for smart boards quick market penetration.. the best of both world.. Look like you are on the digital wagon, but continue to do exactly what you have always done...

Schools buy and teach like they have always done. Any new innovations will come from corporations if they don't get misled by somebody trying to sell them snake oil before. Take something like simulations and serious games (granted that is my living I may not be entirely objective) it is hard to sell... but then we wrap in 'scale to everyone with minimal effort and get huge motivational gains gamification' it is all of a sudden much easier.

P.S: Read your books back when I did my PhD - Really good stuff!