Donor’s Choose – XBox Project

Why On-Line Learning Does Not Work

If there is a way to do on-line learning, I’ve done it, both as a participant and as a teacher.  Unfortunately I think pure on-line learning doesn’t work well for most people, adults and high school students.

The biggest reason I think that on-line learning of new concepts doesn’t work well is that teaching is a two way communication process and there is too big of a lag with most on-line techniques.  Now, that doesn’t apply to distance learning.  I’m talking about the asynchronous model where the students and teachers log in at different times.

The absolute worse way of doing online learning happened with a student last year.  He would sit down and blast away at assignments and not wait for feedback.  He was not very successful.

I have had a very successful student.  He would submit an assignment and wait for feedback.  I usually got back to him within 24 hours.  He was also at my school and very assertive about asking for help.

The other problem with on-line learning  it is puts the work and responsibility on the student and most people aren’t comfortable with that.  We’re used to coming into a classroom, sitting down and doing what the teacher tells us to do.  Yes, as students we have to get up and get there, but someone has usually put consequences into not learning.

In Texas, we have truancy courts that make students come to school.  As teachers, we don’t get paid and have to suffer some unknown fate if we don’t go to a required staff development.  But most on-line courses don’t have consequences if we don’t attend.

I’ve been in an online course with a friend who really hates them.  He perceives, probably correctly, that we have to do more work when we take an online course.  I know that the requirements that were made were probably more difficult to do in an face to face, traditionally class – which was to rewrite a lesson in a different format.

In fact, most people taking online courses perceive that they are working harder.  I know as a teacher, I front load all my courses, and if I am doing them face-to-face, will reduce the assignments.  I don’t do that as much when I am teaching online – I leave it up to the student to find a way to get the work done.

By front-loading, that means that I plan enough material to cover the class than I really need.  I’ve found it’s easy to throw out stuff then to make stuff as I go along.

Back to the student.  On-line courses put the learning back in the hands of the student.  They have to interact with the course, they have to do the assignments, and have to wait for feedback.  It’s difficult to ask for assistance, again, because of the lack of timely feedback – and how many times have you as a student been off track?  It is better if there is a way to get instant feedback – lots of studies over lots of subjects prove that.

I find on-line courses enjoyable, but it has to be something I already have a lot of knowledge and interest in.  Face to face is much better when it is a completely new skill.  Learning Illustrator, for example went better when I took it at New Horizons with an instructor who could keep me on task.  Learning Photoshop in an online environment didn’t go as well – and both courses were from New Horizon, and both were done at their facility.

So I wouldn’t write off face-to-face instruction very quickly.  I think there is going to be a need for it for a long time to come.  Besides, who else is going to keep up with our teenagers?


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