Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fifteen years of online education

Greetings from MoodlePosium 2012 in Canberra, where Dr. Shirley Reushle, Associate Director of the Australian Digital Futures Institute  is talking on fifteen years of online education at USQ. She made the point that students like active learning and interaction with other students, which is possible online.

Dr. Reushle broke out of the usual Powerpoint mode of conference presentations by running a live feedback session using Polleverywhere.  She asked the question "How is interacting and collaborating online different to collaborating in a face-to-face situation?" and invited the audience to respond by SMS or web. This worked remarkably well.She then showed a number of videos from here students discussing the topic, which was less useful.

Dr. Reushle was describing a very personal version of online education, which I have had the benefit of. However, my worry is that a more mechanical version of online education, designed to reduce costs and teach "facts". Australian educators may produce excellent online courses, only to find they are replaced by MOOCs from overseas, simply because these are cheaper.

There is a tendency to have an idealistic view of new communications technology changing education. Beat Generation authors Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs expressed a view on instructional technology in Chapter 7 of their 1945 novel "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks". One of the characters expresses the view that recordings of university lectures will be broadcast by radio 24 hours a day, allowing access for anyone. The narrator of the story expresses skepticism over this idea. That skepticism was well founded.

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