Every once in a while I get all riled up about peoples’ misconceptions of education. When President Obama was campaigning the first time, he was talking about education and basically said that anyone with content knowledge could teach. Yep … that belief minimizes the importance of students – it tells us that standardized test scores are teachers’ products – nothing about real nature of teaching and learning.
So you won’t be surprised when you hear my latest rant … well, mini-rant … in response to Joshua Gan’s article, What My 11 Year Old’s Stanford Course Taught Me About Online Education, in Forbes (http://edtechutb.visibli.com/share/pGeB44). Basically, I wanted to teach him more about online education!
Stanford and many other universities are contributing to this open learning approach – an amazing phenomena made possible to anyone with access to the Web. It must be noted, however, that the transference of information is just one function of education. The course you’ve described is merely an online correspondence course built on Web 1.0 principles – information is unidirectional and “controlled” by the knowledge experts.
There is a continuum of online course design models – ranging from the traditional (like the Stanford course), to the teacher-designed student-centered/collaborative, and ultimately to the MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs are learner-centered and -driven, collaborative, and based on constructivist and connectivist principles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course).
It’s very important that we understand that online learning is not just about getting the information to the learner … it’s about facilitating learning. It is not about shoveling classroom content into cyberspace … it is about creating an environment where learners work together to make meaning. Effective learning occurs as we connect the content to prior knowledge within a community of learners.
Again, the Stanford class is just one online teaching/learning approach – it is not how all courses are offered and it certainly not the most effective approach for education. The minimalist view that all educators have to do is transfer information is one of the major reasons that the 19th century perception of education persists.