Category Archives: E-learning
“Facebook and Twitter may topple autocratic regimes, but it will be blended learning that empowers hundreds of millions of youth to lead healthy and more productive lives.” — Tom Vander Ark
Online courseware by itself does not offer a supportive learning experience or the engagement and motivation needed to keep students in schools and colleges. Studies show 60% of students find video lectures “boring” (Mann, 2009), and 60% of students read less when using e-textbooks (Rickman et al, 2009). In the Silent Epidemic studyfunded by the Gates Foundation, 47% of dropouts said a major reason for dropping out was that “classes were not interesting” and they were “bored”. Remarkably, 88% of dropouts had passing grades (Bridgeland et al, 2006). These students are not failing out of school; they are simply disengaging.
Therein lies the core problem: How to engage a generation of learners, who live on the Internet yet tune out of school, who seek interaction on Facebook yet find none on iTunes U, who need community yet are only offered content. Clearly the answer has to have a digital element – because we know that is where our cyberteens live 24/7. But online learning alone can’t keep them engaged, and we have plenty of studies that prove that. Here is where the recent studies on “Blended learning” provide encouraging results.
Blended learning adds a human element, through faculty or teaching assistants to keep learners engaged. But how do you scale this solution to the millions of self directed learners online, or reach out globally? The answer has to be peer-to-peer: empower, enable, facilitate conversations around learning, so learners can help each other. It is social, you can chat about stuff, it is timely, someone around the world is sure to be online to answer, and often the help may often be more useful than what teacher or instructor may provide.
You may say, “I can understand the panicky teen asking for help before a test, but will there be someone to help? And why would they bother? ” If you have a minute, take a look at the Mathematics group on OpenStudy. (http://openstudy.com/groups/mathematics).
Yes, questions are posted in rapid succession, but you will find people taking time to use the equation editor to craft a solution to a problem. There is always someone wanting to help. Altruism is certainly alive and doing well amongst these cyberteens. And it is through these conversations facilitated by blended learning, that we will engage and empower millions of learners, everywhere.
Where is a teacher to turn when he or she is assigned to teach an AP course, in Calculus. Well, try one of the OpenCourse ware courses says, Susan Gilleran, a seasoned educator from Ann Arbor Michigan. She recommends MIT OCW’s Introduction to Calculus. (http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-01-single-variable-calculus-fall-2006/)
What is OpenCourseWare you ask? The concept of sharing educational resources freely around the world, referred to as “open education resources (OER)” or “open courseware“, is now gaining mainstream acceptance both inside and outside of the academy and has been adopted by over 200 higher education institutions worldwide. According to the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCW), open education has three main advantages: access and distribution of knowledge to regions of the world where higher education is not readily available; recruitment and retention of students, as well as curriculum development and research collaboration among faculty; and sustainability of interest in and access to higher education. The OCW Consortium offers thousands of free, high-quality courses, developed by hundreds of faculty, used by millions worldwide. OCW is attractive to students (42%), self-learners (43%), and educators, with large numbers (46%) of users from the US.
The largest OER provider is the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium, which includes over 200 universities that are making thousands of courses and other materials available online via web sites, iTunes U, and YouTube EDU. Some of the world’s best institutions of higher learning offer their courses on OCW, MIT, Yale, Berkeley, University of Korea, Johns Hopkins, U Michigan, U. Delft to name a few. These courses are immensely popular; MIT’s well-known OCW site gets 9 million unique visitors. About 40 to 45 percent of OCW users are traditional students (15-24 years old), another 40 to 45 percent are professionals and independent learners, and the rest are teachers, educators, and others.
For the K-12 community, Open Educational Resources and the OCW content offer educational enhancement opportunities at several levels. Course material on all manners of subjects is freely available and downloadable in different formats and can help teachers better prepare themselves or improve and enhance their instructional content. Consider this:
- For teachers being asked to teach a relatively new subject or just reenergize, (a Math teacher being asked to teach Physics- does it ever happen?)
- For students wishing to prepare for AP exams or college level courses
- For high school students wanting to explore a new subject, anthropology?
- For college-bound students in the process of applying, wishing to learn about the institution and its academic environment, well, you have the insider’s view now.
What is missing on OCW courses are the people to answer questions and chat with. Recently, OpenStudy, a company that I co-founded, offers way for learners on OCW to meet and chat and learn together and fills that very need. Why study alone when you can study together? There are 5000 others like you studying Single Variable Calculus on OpenStudy’s study group for this course. Check it out and let me know. (
Certainly, too much for one post. But since a lot my colleagues have asked me this, presumably because I am a scientist/educator/dean/ let me try to address that.
Lessons in leadership would be as important. This topic sounds touchy feely but is so critical. It was great to have an opportunity to think about it and to learn about it.
Finally, I relearned what it was to be a student. It was wonderful to go through the cohort experience, to learn together from others, to ask for help, to be ready to accept help from a fellow sufferer, to give help, to work together on assignments, that would have been impossible alone. This shared experience builds lasting bonds.
An educator who loses touch with being a student, loses touch with reality. It was a compelling opportunity to rethink learning and review teaching. Lesson learned: Too often educators ignore the social component of learning instead of harnessing its power. Big mistake. Everyone wants to get help and give help and a successful educational experience incorporates that element.