Is computer-delivered education equivalent to one with a flesh-and-blood teacher and hands-on experiences?

computer (Medium)Shannon Howrey is assistant professor of literacy education at Georgia Gwinnett College and parent of three school-aged children.  In her second op-ed for the Get Schooled blog, she writes about the spread of MOOCs, massive open online courses delivered over the Internet to anyone who enrolls without charge.

MOOCs award students certificates rather than college credits.

The nation’s elite colleges are rushing to create MOOCs to enhance their brand and to be part of the most talked about innovation in higher education. At some point, colleges are expected to use the evolving and dynamic MOOC market to make money. Among the possible revenue sources: Data mining, selling the course material, selling sponsorships, charging tuition.

In her interesting piece, Howrey considers the future and benefits of MOOCs.

By Shannon Howrey

The AJC reported Monday that Georgia State University is entering the growing market of massive open online courses, better known as MOOCs, and plans to offer them free of charge in the near future. This is great news for students who are geographically or financially hindered from attending a brick-and-mortar school, and colleges everywhere are rushing in to get in on the action.

But philanthropy alone is not driving this initiative, and students with other no other educational options make up only a small slice of the marketing demographic.

Think of a MOOC like a printer. Printers are sold cheaply, sometimes at an initial loss to the printer company. However, to get any use out of the printer you have to keep purchasing the company’s expensive print cartridges, allowing them to recap the initial loss several times over.

Like a printer, the MOOC is offered “free” to the student, and the school invests a small amount of money for the course development, delivery platform, and maybe a real instructor. But, if a student actually wants to get any use out of the course, perhaps to gain a credential for employment, he or she will need to purchase some proof that the material has been mastered.

The “cartridge” in this case might take the form of a certificate of completion, computer-graded exam fee, or, if absolutely necessary, a professional evaluation of the student’s work. So, if the school attracts 10,000 students with a course that cost them $100,000 initially, and all 10,000 students pay the college $100 for the credential the school has netted $900,000. If the same class is offered more than once the revenue multiplies ad infinitum.

On paper this seems an ingenious idea. In what looks like a win-win situation, the college takes in millions. The students pay just $100 for credentials that would have cost several times more if offered in traditional format. And since they won’t need their summer jobs anymore to pay for tuition, they can earn an entire degree while sunbathing at the beach or sitting on the couch between video games.

This scenario will most likely draw in large numbers of newly minted high school graduates, and the MOOCs will be a big hit. But one consideration remains: Is a computer-delivered education equivalent to one with a flesh-and-blood teacher, reasonable class size, and concrete learning materials?

Every semester I ask my teacher education students to describe the teacher who had the most impact their education. Their responses are similar and usually fall into three categories: First, the teacher took an interest in them, as illustrated in responses such as, “inspired me to do my best,” “had confidence in me,” or “encouraged me to further my education.” Secondly, the teacher motivated them. These responses look something like, “She made class interesting,” or “He had us do creative projects instead of lecturing all the time.” Other comments referred to the teacher’s personal involvement in their success. These teachers “helped me when I didn’t understand something,” or “spent extra time tutoring me.”

Not surprisingly, the students’ comments echo research on how people learn. This research has shown again and again that students learn best by applying knowledge in a concrete way to a real situation. Further, their classroom environment includes opportunities for interacting with other students and a teacher who takes the time to work with them until they understand.

Learning in this way creates synaptic connections in multiple areas of the brain within and between the new concept and those learned earlier. These conditions stimulate the brain, thereby creating motivation to learn more, which creates even more connections. Those connections are the foundation of creativity and underlie every invention and original idea.

To illustrate this concept, think about an apple. To understand the concept of “apple” you could hear all about one from an apple specialist, you could see a picture of it, maybe read a chapter about it and even discuss it with people from all over the world. However, until you hold an apple in your hand, dissect it and take a bite you won’t know how to use the apple in any meaningful way. If you have trouble you could always observe your peers dissecting the apple, or the apple specialist could take the time to help you personally. Without this concrete experience and personal interaction you might retain a fuzzy idea of an apple, but you would probably not think to draw upon the apple to improve an old recipe or invent a new one.

In all the years I’ve asked the question not one student has ever said that the teachers who impacted their education most, “stuffed the most knowledge into my brain as quickly and cheaply as possible.” MOOCs are not an education. They are a means of increasing much needed revenue for colleges by leveraging their meager resources — revenue that is needed because Georgia taxpayers would rather not fund a real education.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

86 comments Add your comment

Southern opinion

January 25th, 2013
2:57 am

Looks good in theory. Monitoring will be tough.


January 25th, 2013
4:42 am

“Is computer-delivered education equivalent to one with a flesh-and-blood teacher and hands-on experiences?”

In a word, no.

As a CPA I have to take at least 40 hours CPE per year. A lot of the vendors who supply that type of training offer webinars as an alternative to an instructor led seminar. I’ve taken them and I don’t like them. In order of preference:

1. Instructor led seminar
2. Conference style event with break-out sessions.
3. Webinar
4. Self-study courses.

As the author noted, the online webinar type courses are a cash cow for the vendor, or in this case, the college.


January 25th, 2013
5:15 am

This computer driven instruction is the wave of the future. I teach elementary ed in a Georgia public school and it’s obvious that the districts are looking to this as an answer to solve many problems facing schools in the current climate. Relatively cheap programs that individualize instruction whose sole purpose is to pass the multiple testing and regulatory challenges facing schools. I personally see this trend eventually taking teacher positions and districts replacing salaries with increased computers and labs. From someone who has seen this in action, yes to computers as a tool to aid RTI and targeted remediation. Unfortunately, I have real doubts about the ability of a computer to actually teach reading. Teaching the “art”of reading is too complex with too many variables to have anyone but an experienced human being in charge of instruction. Maybe I’m only wishful thinking-time will tell.

HoneyFern School

January 25th, 2013
5:59 am

The answer to this question is complex. Yes, in some instances, online classes are simply trying to solve the babysitting problem: how do we cram as many students as possible into a classroom with diminishing resources and lack of parental involvement? Online classes! How do we technically satisfy requirements for certain classes without paying a teacher at our local school? Online classes!

The quality of the classes is the issue. So many of them are junk with zero interaction between course/teacher except to submit an assignment. The very best online classes, and one potential future of education, combines media and utilizes social tools to more fully engage students. Does this replace a committed person working with a student one-on-one? No, but that’s not the reality in a classroom today either. And let’s talk about the varying quality of FTF instruction, too; just because the teacher is in the room doesn’t mean they are effective.

MOOCs are the future for many students and the reality of how kids learn in some cases (not all). I prefer hands-on, IRL instruction in my school, but I also took an amazing art class over the summer, all online. The key is to only support quality online classes, and let the others fade away.


January 25th, 2013
6:02 am

yes, it’s coming for k-12 too – every time I’m encouraged to film myself demonstrating a lesson and put the video on my school web page, I think to myself eventually I’m going to film myself right out of a job…or someone else will. The funny thing is, I do it for kids who happen to be out on a presentation day or maybe just need to go back over the material. The vast majority of students DISLIKE having to watch a video of me teaching – they want the real deal – they want to be able to ask questions – interact. It’s gonna be a sad day, but it’s coming…

Peter Smagorinsky

January 25th, 2013
6:04 am

I think the question is less whether online teaching is good or bad, but whether specific online teaching efforts produce learning. There are good and back flesh-and-blood teachers, and good and bad online insructional programs.

In 50 years, I suspect that online learning will be commonplace (and it’s becoming more so). For all we know, there will be no gasoline available 50 years down the road, which will make driving to brick-and-mortar facilities a non-option, unless electric cars are developed to replace them. In my view, the question for online learning is not whether it’s good or bad as an approach, but how to make it better and more viable for generations who are acculturated to online learning environments, which are on the rise, no matter how much we oldsters pine for replicating our youth as the future.

Peter Smagorinsky

January 25th, 2013
6:05 am

Man, my fingers and brain are out of synch. Make that good and bad teachers, not good and back.

"Earned" An Online Degree

January 25th, 2013
6:29 am

I got a Masters as part of a job promotion requirement. Obviously I was pretty motivated. I can’t remember a thing I studied, excpet dutifully lookng up the answers just long enough to pass the test.

Those who promote on-line education need to answer these simple questions:

1) Would YOU accept surgery from a doctor who received his medical degrees online? Or get into a airplane piloted by a person who got his license online? Or get your car repaired by an online-educated mechanic? How about have your house built by an online-educated architect?

2) If the concept doesn’t work there….where do you draw the line?

3) Finally, name ONE child who actually sits still enough to watch an entire video longer than 3-4 minutes. Any teacher or parent knows that you have to have hands-on interaction in order to continually engage young minds. It’s the way we’re wired.

This is a bad road to head down…

HS Math Teacher

January 25th, 2013
6:39 am

The new textbooks have those scannable codes (I don’t know what they’re called). A student can scan the code, and a teacher pops up on his/her smart phone, and gives an explanation to a particular problem in the text. YouTube is replete with teachers teaching a particular topic, subject, etc. Also, there’s TeacherTube.

Is this type of education as good as being in a real classroom with a real teacher? In mathematics, I would say so, as long as there is a way to address anticipated questions. Additional thought should be given to do away with “9th grade”, 10th grade”, and so on. Go to modular learning; let kids work at a pace that’s right for them.


January 25th, 2013
6:45 am

There are a LOT of teachers in GA that have an online doctorate. How good are they? Would you want a medical doctor treating you that had an online degree? There is a need for “some” to take classes online (military personnel, for example), but for others…..hmmm….they just want to be called “doctor,” get a pay raise, and not have to work too hard. Heck, most of them wouldn’t score high enough on the GRE to get into a traditional program.

Those that have the day off due to weather……enjoy!! I will be headed out in 30 minutes. Boo hoo!!

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 25th, 2013
7:01 am

Peter and Shannon, please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the research show that authentic learning nearly always happens best when there’s a caring, creative, knowledgeable teacher in the room?

Naturally, I acknowledge that there are better and worse teachers and online courses, but I think it will be huge mistake for our grandchildren if all “education” is “delivered” via the computer. I wonder where they’ll learn the skills that all institutions from corporations to churches tell us they value most–things like team work and communication and interpersonal abilities. I wonder how they’ll learn anything but the most base-level kinds of knowledge if all education becomes a deliverable product.

To me, the issue is not pining for the old days (honestly, I wouldn’t give a fig for my childhood education), but focusing on how humans learn and grow.

[BTW, if the oil magnates hadn't squashed the electric car that was available about three decades ago, maybe we'd be in a very different place right now, globally and locally...]


January 25th, 2013
7:08 am

As you know, the Gwinnett County Online Campus has been operating for over a dozen years and has had full time students about half that time.
The AJC might consider a piece on this school to get the impressions of students and teachers who have first hand experience with an online school.


January 25th, 2013
7:25 am

I have taken courses and taught in both formats. The real risk in the technological age is that computer learning allows extensive reference checking – i.e., “cheating”. We are educating a group of people who are extremely competent in using their electronic devices and can find great amounts of information. The disadvantage is that they memorize very little and are becoming more and more dependent. There is misinformation on the reference sites (Wikipedia, Google, etc.) and also the possibility of intentionally misleading the naive on politically sensitive issues. I would hope that we continue to educate professors who have published original research, can teach critical analysis, and demand face-to-face seminars that require human brain recitation..

Van Jones

January 25th, 2013
7:31 am

Nope, not even close.

Call It Like It Is

January 25th, 2013
7:38 am

In one word, “scam.” Yes most of our schools are moving this direction because it’s easy money. You have millions of working adults out there who wish to further their career and to do so you have to have the sheep skin. Can’t quit the job to go back to school, so what does one do, hit classes on-line. It would be simpler and get the same results to just have a diploma vending machine on our street corners. I have the traditional BSM, and thought about getting my masters, started looking into what I could do to accomplish that without leaving my current job. Took several on-line courses from supposed reputable schools. Complete joke. Easy A with every class. Nothing of substance. It has now gotten so bad that my current employer will not even acknowledge the degrees from these for profit only institutions.
But with that being said, some of our brick and mortar schools are not much better. Ga gets the Hope grants and all of a sudden every single kid in Georgia now gets to go to college no matter what their grades were in high school and the schools themselves start raising tuition costs, parking fees, student fees, forcing students to buy dining hall lunch plans and so forth. One only needs to look North to KSU to see how this school has literately triple in size since the implementation of the Hope grants.

Dewey Cheatham & Howe

January 25th, 2013
7:39 am

“BTW, if the oil magnates hadn’t squashed the electric car that was available about three decades ago, maybe we’d be in a very different place right now, globally and locally…]”

Conspiracy nonsense. I sure hope you don’t teach science. In fact,I hope you’re not a teacher at all.

Citation badly needed.


January 25th, 2013
8:04 am

No yes or no answer here. Certainly online courses cannot demonstrate and/or teach as student how he or she learns best. So for the early age child up to 3rd or 4th grade, I would opine that teacher interaction emphasizing the teaching of organizational and best learning styles for that individual student in addition to subject content be the rule of the day. But after that 30 years in the k-12 administrator’s seat proved to me that the greater majority of students could learn just as effectively from a computer and other tech-oriented opportunities than from a teacher in the formal classroom. A key would be, of course, associating some opportunity for Q&A’s from a “live” source with the technolgy-aided instruction. For those saying the teacher-student face-to-face interaction is a necessity, I suggest that the “research” all educators insist on quoting involve a control group of students taking the same tests that teachers in the classroom are giving their students. Let’s compare the results for even if there is no way to determine the natural abilities and motivation of each student in the study (which would be brought up by the supporters of the industry) the “statistics” and “research” that the k-12 industry will quote as necessary before change can be made, will be afforded.

I Teach Writing

January 25th, 2013
8:20 am

The headline frames this as an online vs. F2F discussion, but the quoted column is only interested in MOOCs. Ms. Howrey frames the MOOC explosion as if it were in direct competition with a traditional university education, largely by using the word “credential” to elide the tremendous difference in cultural capital between a MOOC certificate and a university degree. But that doesn’t seem to represent how MOOCs are being used — mostly as supplementary learning.

On the job (or the job market), there’s not yet any clear sense of what a MOOC certificate is worth (or if it’s worth anything). It IS clear that such certificates won’t hold nearly the clout of a B.A. They might be useful for professionals looking to advance their knowledge in particular areas, though, which would render Ms. Howrey’s decision to interview adolescents looking back at their childhood school experiences useless as a foundation for comparison.

I remain personally suspicious of MOOCs as yet another ed-tech fad, but I don’t deny their ability to make accessible knowledgeable (even elite) lecturers to a broad audience. Since MOOCs cost relatively little to run, and most of that in start-up capital, I hope that they’ll evolve like bacteria (or web-based tools), iterating quickly as unsuccessful methods fail and better methods succeed — until an even better method renders the latter obsolete. Student completion rates will probably stay very low, but if we can distribute specialized knowledge for nearly free, even the current <10% completion rates would be a win. If schools try to turn MOOCs into replacements for a residential learning experience, I would react very differently.

Mary Elizabeth

January 25th, 2013
8:26 am

From the article above: “Is a computer-delivered education equivalent to one with a flesh-and-blood teacher, reasonable class size, and concrete learning materials?”

I ask readers to read this excerpt from the recent article regarding middle school teacher Mark Weese’s teaching style and, then, answer, to themselves, whether online science instruction could match Weese’s teaching style for student learning, whether it were to occur in middle school, high school, or college:

“Watching Mark’s middle school students engage in scientific inquiry—posing questions, designing experiments, and arguing about the meaning of findings—gives me faith in the future of education in Georgia. Mark’s dedication to showing his students that they can make a difference in the world by engaging in rigorous scientific thinking is a model for how great teaching can change students’ lives by leading students to perceive themselves as great thinkers with important work to do. He understands that the secret to college and career readiness begins with students taking themselves seriously as thinkers who can solve problems.”

Just Sayin.....

January 25th, 2013
8:40 am

I’m with Lee on this one. Actually, computer delivered education is fine if that is how you learn. I learn better by hearing the lecture, reading the material, and writing notes/summaries. That is three times through my head in different paths, and they seem to reenforce each other. When material is not heard, when summaries are already made digitally, then reading material is all that is left… one path… and I don’t learn as well that way.

So… it is going to be a personal learning issue. I learn better sitting in a classroom.


January 25th, 2013
8:43 am


January 25th, 2013
8:52 am

Interesting article re online courses…especially considering our recent review of the iTunes University App on my iPad.

Inman Parker

January 25th, 2013
8:57 am

There are multiple learning styles, such as visual, auditory, etc. each person has his/ her own style. I do know that for a young person with ADD, computer based learning is a disaster!

bootney farnsworth

January 25th, 2013
9:06 am

of course not.
but its the elephant in the room, regardless

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
9:27 am

Whether an online course is effective or not has a lot to do with its content.

I took an online English course one time (through a brick and mortar school) that was great. We read selections and then went online to pose questions and discuss our interpretations of the literature. The course was very engaging and there was more interaction between students than in any other course I have taken before or since. It was really interesting when we met face-to-face at the end of the semester because we all knew each other surprisingly well by that time and had a really good understanding of each others’ perspectives. I felt we learned a great deal about interpreting literature and communicating those interpretations.

But that course required little direct instruction. We simply read, interpreted, and discussed. Other courses do not work as well online. For instance, when I teach the first master’s level research course in the sequence, a great deal of direct instruction is necessary. I need to draw experimental designs out on the board in real time while asking students questions, answering questions, and giving individualized feedback. I need to illustrate how and why and when different statistical tests are used. This requires a voice, visual cues, and interaction with the students, a combination that’s much more difficult to accomplish in an asynchronous online environment.

This first research course is offered both face-to-face and online. When teaching the second part of the research sequence courses, where students actually do the research, I have noticed that students who took the first part online are much less prepared than their counterparts who took the course face-to-face. Those who took the face-to-face course have a much better understanding of research design and statistical analysis, need less remediation, and turn in more polished work. It’s a shock to those who took it online because they can’t coast anymore and they generally aren’t adequately prepared coming in.

Beyond that, I’ve noticed a difference in the students themselves in all online classes. They tend to be poorer students in almost every way. They seem to take the online courses because they want to take the easiest way out. They don’t want to leave the comfort of their homes to have to drive to campus. Their work is generally less well developed, less detailed, less polished, and their understanding of the material is more basic. In most cases I believe this is due in large part to motivation and work ethic. They take the online course because they perceive it to be easier and less bothersome. Then because of this mindset they actually do less thorough work. Couple this with an online instructional method that is often not as effective and you have a much more poorly educated student at the end in most cases.

It’s great if students do have the motivation to take some supplementary coursework online, but in my experience with both types of courses and both types of students, online is by far inferior.


January 25th, 2013
9:32 am

Corporations have been using this technique (in combination with interactive classwork) for decades. Intensive computer based learning is used to introduce new technical systems and integration along with testing and repeat computer instruction where comprehension is shown to be weak.

This combination technique allows instructors more time for their own development and fine tune their methods to reinforce what was learned via the computer based training. Not for profit bureaucratic school systems resist such proven educational techniques to save jobs both in administration and the classroom.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
9:38 am

I was recently having a discussion with a department head in the college of education, who was suggesting the use of more online learning for undergraduates. I asked her the following questions:

Would you advocate online instruction for elementary students? Answer- No.
Would you advocate online instruction for middle school students? Answer- No.
Would you advocate online instruction for high school students? Answer- No, not completely.
Would you hire a professor with an online doctorate? Answer- No.


Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
9:43 am


There’s no such thing as a “proven educational technique”. When anyone uses the term “proven” in science, particularly the social sciences, I know immediately they’re a shyster. But just to humor you, can you cite some of the research experiments where this was proven?


January 25th, 2013
10:02 am

The article conflates MOOCs with other online learning. MOOCs aside, there are multiple ways to present material online. Many organizations, and I think most for-profits offer asynchronous online education. That means you go to a website when it is convenient for you, watch recorded lectures, read the material and do the assignments. As others have pointed out, this approach lacks significant teacher to student interaction, and perhaps as important, it lacks student to student interaction. I teach online classes at SPSU. We use a different model, and I believe other USG schools do as well. Our classes have the components listed, but we also have live weekly class meetings where students and the professor discuss the material. This provides the live interaction that might be otherwise missing. Students can use voice to ask questions or make comments, or they can type them in. Professors can pull in material from the web or other sources. There are also discussion boards where students respond to questions, and to each other. This allows for a more deliberate and thoughtful discussion than the one we have in class. Our online students do as well or better than those who come on campus. It is simplistic to discuss the superiority or even the adequacy of one interface vs another. The underlying methods are more important.


January 25th, 2013
10:07 am

Progressive humanist,
Your comments are interesting. My experience has been quite different. My online students are both more motivated and more disciplined. This may be in large part because they tend to be older and juggling multiple responsibilities, but it has consistently been the case.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

January 25th, 2013
10:08 am

MOOC’s are great if we want a society of robots. If we want critically thinking citizens who know and understand how to interact with each other, we best stick with PEOPLE teaching PEOPLE.

Classrooms teach much more than course material. In a classroom students learn how to deal with peers and authority, whether they like and agree with them or not.

Of course, cheap is best in our materialistic and conflicted society. On-line education is a very real threat to future generations.


January 25th, 2013
10:14 am

Nah, I’d rather have my kid sitting next to an IQ of 80, a student who poops in his pants, a guy pretending to be tough, a crack-baby, a real thug, a psycho, a pregnant 7th grader, with a burnt out teacher who glances at the clock every 30 seconds.


January 25th, 2013
10:15 am

I have taken both and it is really based on the style of learning that is an individual thing. I love the format at my college where I get both live interaction with my professors, tons of supplementary material, and lots of support. Students get to interact if they want to and I work with several of my classmates in each of our classes together. It has worked well for me. I believe these classes are successful if you put effort into it. You can cheat your way through a lot of brick and mortar classes too. With new technology being added all of the time, I think it is great for those of us who would not have achieved this otherwise. My son is taking MOOC classes now and loves them. He is ADD too btw.

Steve W

January 25th, 2013
10:25 am

I’m an HR director and won’t even look at an application with online college degrees.

What kind of an education do you get without fellow students asking questions or giving input?

Sorry !


January 25th, 2013
10:40 am

MOOCs do seem like a way for colleges to “hook” additional money. It seems they would take a potential student with an interest in something and allow them computer-driven instruction and then, if they want credit they take an exam and pay a fee.

For many students I question the efficacy of this.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
10:51 am

Inman Parker- I urge you to go back and look at the empirical research on learning styles. We are all visual learners, we are all auditory learners, and we are all tactile learners. Most people are willing to fill out a survey that purports to gauge their learning style. However, there is no evidence that we actually have a “learning style” or that by matching a supposed learning style to a similar teaching style that learning is enhanced. In other words, there is no empirical research to support the matching hypothesis, the idea that matching a “visual learner” with visual instruction improves learning. Moreover, neuroscientists have debunked Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence (actually a shaky hypothesis, not a theory). So it’s not a strong argument to use learning styles as a basis for advocating online instruction.


January 25th, 2013
10:55 am

Schools are behind the times. E-learning is very commonplace in the Corporate world and very effective. Our company requires us to take several courses through-out the year. The sessions are well structured with questions embedded through-out the materials. Instead of waiting until the end to test a student, the portions of the session can be repeated until you have a grasp of the material – then move on to the next. It also allows for the implementation of best practices to cover the subject matter.

Of course, the motivation between the organizations is different. In the Corporate world, the objective is providing effective instruction. In the Academic world, the objective is providing jobs to teachers.


January 25th, 2013
11:05 am

Of course it is, the standards are the same, it costs less in real dollars and nobody gets less than a C which is the same as public schools and a lot of private schools.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
11:07 am

So, Pompano, I guess the “Corporate” [sic] world is the model we should use because it’s been so successful? Is that because bailouts don’t count against the corporate world? I would say that since the 80’s, when when pencil-pushing MBAs took over corporate management from engineers and technicians who actually knew about the products, that the corporate world has been the perfect model of dysfunction. You claim the education system is bad, but it was your corporate world that nearly brought this country to its knees 5 years ago due to ineptitude. No thanks on the corporate model.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
11:19 am

From my reviews of the research on online instruction vs face-to-face instruction (which admittedly was about 4 years ago), it appears the findings were mixed. Most research found face-to-face instruction to be more effective, while some appeared to show greater benefits to some students in online environments. From this you’d have to conclude that a mixture may be the best route, the best of both worlds, so to speak.

In a face-to-face class you can incorporate aspects of online instruction that may be beneficial- online discussion forums, links to videos, interactive quizzes, etc. But in a full online format you might not be able to include the beneficial aspects of a face-to-face class. This, among other reasons, is why if given the choice I will choose to teach via a hybrid format over an exclusively online format every time.


January 25th, 2013
11:26 am

Why does there seem to be an implicit assumption that people in an online class cannot talk to each other or to the instructor. Face to face learning in an online environment is here.

Title 1 Educator

January 25th, 2013
11:42 am

I don’t believe that Howrey is in a postion to talk authoritatively on MOOCs, solely based on having young children or teaching children’s literacy to education students. MOOCs aren’t designed for every learner and definitely aren’t for children, so considering hands-on activities and inspiring teachers is a bit silly. (Understanding how you learn and what kind of supports you need is the critical question that every college applicant needs to consider. My large public university was a different country compared to my sister’s small, private college.) Did she ask her college students about professors or K-12 teachers? The expectations and relationship are quite different.

As an undergrad, I attended UGA and had several auditorium lecture classes with absolutely no individual time with a TA or instructor. However, for my M.Ed., I attended a college that allowed you to register for the same classes online and onsite. Onsite classes were full of hands-on activities that we could (supposedly) replicate in our classrooms, but were ususally devoid of academic rigor and often designed for early elementary teachers. I recall fellow students who struggled to locate and summarize 2-page educational articles successfully. On the other hand, online classes demanded you adhere to tight deadlines, read and research rigorously and independently, and produce analyses, case studies, projects and term papers independently. I learned so much more in my online classes and saved a lot of gas money.

Online coursework requires a truly independent learner and thinker, which is why there isn’t a widespread movement to have it enter the K-12 arena. To me, MOOCs are one of the most democratizing, exciting innovations in education because knowledge and coursework at the best universities can be spread to individuals who may not have the time, financial means, or academic qualifications to enroll on-site.

Finally, I think it is ridiculous to question the validity of a college making a profit on teaching students when that is their objective as an institution. I can recall in the ’80s marching across UGA to protest its investments in apartheid South Africa. Isn’t this a much better way to invest and won’t we all profit from a better educated populace?


January 25th, 2013
11:47 am

Actually, I think that the AJC was somewhat inaccurate in reporting that Georgia State is “entering the growing market of MOOCs, and plans to offer them free of charge in the near future.” This story was covered on the University’s Home web page, where it was noted:

“”Georgia State University is paving the way for students to receive class credit for taking massively open online courses (MOOCs) under a newly adopted university policy. A policy adopted this week by the University Senate encourages colleges and departments within Georgia State to develop means of granting credit for MOOCs that students have taken at other institutions.”

So GSU isn’t going to offer MOOCs themselves, but use those from other schools that are presumably more prestigious such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, and so on. This raises some questions beyond the one of the value of online learning.

What of the on-campus professors now teaching classes similar to the MOOCs, which usually are introductory classes? Will they be let go? (Great way to save personnel costs!) Will the MOOC courses change the identities of the departments that allow them? Plus the usual questions associated with MOOCs, which have no student admission standards or ways to determine who is actually doing the work in the MOOC.

Oh brave new world, that has such creatures in it!


January 25th, 2013
11:50 am

Electric car enthusiasts…..what generates the vast majority of electricy in this country? Anoyne….anyone.

It’s dirtier than oil….anyone….anyone?


January 25th, 2013
11:51 am

Mary E…”“Watching Mark’s middle school students engage in scientific inquiry—posing questions, designing experiments, and arguing about the meaning of findings—”

Mary , this applies also to all the subjects in the curriculum …Engagement , engagement engagement , !!!

Google "NEA" and "union"

January 25th, 2013
12:06 pm

It’s odd that participants in an online blog would seek to throw cold water on the idea of online learning.

Perhaps MOOCs aren’t perfect for every learner. But they do obviously extend the reach of formal education and provide opportunities to those ill-served by traditional providers. And in a free market system, learners are able to choose whether MOOCs are appropriate for their goals.

Anti-reformers have a vested interest, of course, in opposing anything new. And teachers’ unions can be expected to oppose an innovation which threatens to reduce the number of classroom teachers and therefore union dues revenues.

More choices also threaten the control the education establishment has on course content and ideology (in the social sciences, for instance).

Any wonder then that the usual naysayers are out in force?


January 25th, 2013
12:15 pm

Everything is second to hand-on experience. That’s a no brainer.

As for instruction, each to their own. I learn better in a lecture format, but some people are better with online learning. I mean this in terms of informal training.

I need a degree from a real college espcially once we are talking about post-graduate level coursework.


January 25th, 2013
12:20 pm

UnProgressive Humanist – Sounds like your on the Gov’t dole and don’t have a clue how the private sector works. There are hundreds of thousands of examples of highly successful Corporations and Corporate Leadership- they are what actually drives the economy and make it possible for you to even have the capability to comment on today’s blog. Less than a tenth of a percent of companies had anything to do with the downturn in the Econony. The successful ones drive innovation because they are limited to the resources available to them. The unsuccessful ones turn out crappy products (similar to the current Educational System) and quickly fade away.

10:10 am

January 25th, 2013
12:26 pm

It’s odd that participants in an online blog would seek to throw cold water on the idea of online learning.

Perhaps MOOCs aren’t perfect for every learner. But they do obviously extend the reach of formal education and provide opportunities to those ill-served by traditional providers. And in a free market system, learners are able to choose whether MOOCs are appropriate for their goals.

Anti-reformers have a vested interest, of course, in opposing anything new. And teachers’ unions can be expected to oppose an innovation which threatens to reduce the number of classroom teachers and therefore union dues revenues.

More choices also threaten the control the education establishment has on course content and ideology (in the social sciences, for instance).

Any wonder then that the usual naysayers are out in force?

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2013
12:46 pm

Pompano- Sounds like you’re a pencil pusher who doesn’t understand how education or the private sector work.

Just because education failed you doesn’t mean it fails everyone. Do you think that the millions of people who corporations hire and who run them are not products of the education system? Corporate America itself is a product of public education. Employees are educated in public schools and public universities. New innovations and the underlying foundations for those innovations, new medicines, new technologies, etc. are most commonly spawned, tested, and developed at research universities.

The idea that corporate America has been so successful after the debacle of the last 30 years yet that education has been such a failure is sheer ignorance. If the education system has indeed been a failure, then the ineptitude in corporate America is the best evidence for that premise.