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The Trouble With Online Education - NYTimes.com


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But can online education ever be education of the very best sort?

It’s here that the notion of students teaching teachers is illuminating. As a friend and fellow professor said to me: “You don’t just teach students, you have to learn ’em too.” It took a minute — it sounded like he was channeling Huck Finn — but I figured it out.

Learning is definitely a two-way street.

Fascinating article, Jared. We still have much to learn about teaching.

That article highlights wonderfully what I consider to be the major disjoin between the current crop of educators and the way students would like to learn. And the entire problem comes down to this statement:

"Online education is a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Nothing could possibly be further from the truth. To think that the best way to be able to engage in a dialog with your students is to have them sitting in a classroom where you can see them is outdated. Online education done correctly allows the student an individual ability to explore the materials, assuming they're presented in an appropriate form and the teacher is able to watch for the feedback signals.

Real world education is actually much more a one-size-fits-all endeavor, because everyone in the classroom or lecture hall is forced to the same path through the material. The teacher can choose to modify that path to best fit the folks in the room, but it's still a best fit path to a large group where there are sure to be differences in background and ability. Online course work allows each student an individual path.

Online education should allow for an even greater dialog between student and teacher, however it requires the teachers to use a different skillset to engage in that dialog. Instead of watching for the subtle clues of students sitting in seats trying to absorb materials, the teachers instead have to design the online coursework in such a way that it allows for students to signal what their interests and problems are. And the teachers have to become good at reading analytics and designing A/B tests, much the same way as modern consumer online service development is done.

I dropped out of college because it was frustratingly boring and I didn't feel I was spending my time (or money) very well. But now that online courses have become available I've willfully gone back and covered topics on my own that I had already taken in the classroom. I can tell you as a student I've gotten way more out of it this time around.

Very well said, Mike!

Education needs customization.

Online can do customization well.

Therefore, to be successful online education must do customization well.

Thank you for sharing your story -- I believe many people will learn as you do in the future!

"Therefore, to be successful online education must do customization well.

I think that's a great takeaway to focus on.

I think so too, Mike, and I get excited when education startups talk about doing that.

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