Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Online Education 'Real' Education?

On Tuesday, I asked at least 80 students what they thought about getting an online degree. No classes to attend - everything via the Web (exams, discussions, the works).

Everybody's head started shaking and all said, " way...I won't accept it blahblahblah". Main reason? Physical classes are still necessary for 'real' education to happen.

Fine. That's cool. I understand - or do I?

Because my next questions were:

  • Would you like extra classes? (Response: Nooooo!!)

  • Why do lecturers have to spend time 'pulling' most people back from in-class slumber? (i.e. why come to class and sleep if you feel you NEED it for education?)

  • Why do you rejoice when it's a public holiday and classes are cancelled?

  • Why do most of you seem to NOT enjoy being in the classroom?

It's easy to say, well, it's all the lecturers' fault that lessons are boring. That may be true (and usually is, sigh), but it doesn't resolve the paradox: If students 'demand' face-to-face classes failing which we don't consider ourselves to have been 'educated', why is it so often that every iota of their attitudes and behaviour suggest that they DON'T WANT to be in class?

Isn't this like an abused girlfriend who at one moment curses the boyfriend for beating her up yet can't "live" without him? What's up?


Bob K said...

A bit too simplistic of a presentation on what online education delivery systems are all about, don't you think? ;)

alwyn said...

For sure, man...except I wasn't trying to present 'what online education systems are about' (let alone what they're ALL about).

maybe sometime soon...but i think the 'paradox' is worth reflecting on, no? why does aversion/boredom in classrooms co-exist with the *insistence* on them?

Bob K said...

Heh .. I can't speak for everyone else, but online education and the interaction on "demand" is a godsend for INFPs like me :D

But mulling on your thoughts .. I would suspect that part of the problem lies in perception and the lack of a general understanding of what online education is and how they are actually delivered.

It feeds on certain prejudices that is only forced to confront reality when contrasted with one's own aversion (which again could be a constructed behaviour) to the classroom environment.

Contrary to popular caricatures, I do get meaningful interaction both with my tutors as well as fellow students despite my coursework and assessments being delivered almost totally online. I'll be interested to see how the proctored online examination works when I finally have to go take my certification exams.

U-Liang said...

I noticed that during my undergrad days that I fared worse in those subjects whose classes i skipped (for one reason or another :P) compared to subjects whose classes i attended faithfully.

(Course notes are on9, so its entirely possible to skip lectures throughout the sem and still 'learn' something)

Nothing beats personal interaction. I have benefitted so much by real life discussion with my supervisors, professors, fellow students...

I could always source for course notes on9 (from other institutions), but somehow I don't get the 'feeling' for the matter.

(It's like watching cooking demos on Youtube. It's entirely possible to 'know' but the only way you're gonna make that perfect chawan mushi is by actually practicing.)

I suspect students know this instinctively, just that their adolescent immaturity kicks in causing them to act otherwise.

alwyn said...

I suppose, U-Liang, that if more ppl were like you, then:

1) online education would be in greater abundance to cater for the hundreds (or thousands?) for whom skipping class can be perfectly natural choice

2) the quality of lecturers would be forced upwards (with students voting with their feet)...nowadays, there's still a 'attend class of fail' mentality among faculties

3) more colleges would embrace the on/off-line modes of instruction, giving a variety to their students and, most importantly, *validating* online education (right now, in M'sia at least, there's still LOADS of suspicion/fear about Web-learning) although folks like us(?) seem super-glad at this wave is hitting our shores.

Bob K said...

Personally, online education was a god-sent. Having dropped out from college, it was only a matter of time before I hit a glass ceiling.

With the cost of education escalating, and being unable to actually take time off to go back into studies (whether full time or part time), accessible and accredited online programmes (which also generally tend to be much cheaper than residential programmes) helped me to be able to do what I am doing right now. The relatively lower costs also helped encourage me to go ahead and do so as you would also need to consider the need to actually save enough for your own kids' education needs.

There is an element of caveat emptor when choosing such courses. I did spend at least a year doing some background research on the accreditation process and cross-sector recognition of qualifications, not only in Malaysia but also in other Anglophonic countries where online and distance learning courses and programmes are more readily accessible.

Fortunately, information is much more readily available and better structured for public access in some jurisdictions than others. A visit to our Department of Skills Development's website would be a good case in point. The number of abbreviations and the presumption that you already know what those abbreviations mean would floor you.

One interesting and extremely useful consequence from this research is that you find out how you can take 1 or 2 credit courses and apply it over a few different programmes. That's helpful if you want / need to do a few different programmes at the same time.

U-Liang said...

Yup...that's right.

Down here in Singapore, it's hardly an either/or situation. Both offline/online modes of learning are perfectly acceptable.

Alex Tang said...

Personally I find online education very useful. I have done a theological certificate online and now I am moderating/faciliating some online modules for medical students. I am also writing. designing a theological online module for a local seminary.

Being on both side of the fence gives me a wider perspective on online learning and the great potential it will be when the delivery system continues to improve.

alwyn said...

how's the overall response to the online initiatives, Alex? especially from the churches?

I'm not surprised at Singapore's zeal (as per U-Liang) and even in my program there are more Singaporeans than M'sians.

Alex Tang said...

I have not finished the local theological initiative yet:)

The response for the overseas/international one is good.