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.