Since the advent of the internet chat room, I’ve been curious about how the exponentially growing undercurrent of daily conversation could have an effect on learning environments. I’ve actually had several experiences with alternative learning environments over the years, most of which rely on this one-size-fits-all syllabus structure, that guides you through a series of videos or readings, followed by evaluative quizzes and tests, mostly in an easily electronic-evaluative format (multiple choice, checkboxes, etc) to easily quantify and assess the classes progress into what is likely a series of easy-glance charts on the instructional end. Ease of access, ease of progress, ease of evaluation, right? Quantifiably, no doubt. I cannot doubt for a moment that a digital based experience cannot be configured to the nth degree of efficient statistical performance analysis. What has always been so glaringly missing, however, has been the quality control. I have delved into various online educational pursuits since the early 2000s in it’s advent, and I have yet to actually encounter a truly high-quality experience.
Educators find online education to be cost-effective, and far-reaching. In higher education administration, online is your cash-cow. Invest in filming some lectures, write up a solid lesson plan, purchase or develop a learning platform, release, reap the benefits. The advent of “free” online education has changed this model to some degree, but not without its own difficulties.
Educational environments need presence and meaningful dialogue. They need focus, organization, and time commitment. They need to evolve and grow organically as necessary. So far I haven’t experienced this level of dedication to the “classroom” online.
I enrolled in the Coursera course, “Intro to Philosophy,” out of interest to participate in an offline version of the online environment with some of my ITP classmates. However, the first week of the online piece of the course is underwhelming. And there are over 1000 people participating in the course, which makes dialogue nearly impossible. I find a lack of meaningful dialogue opportunities in a Philosophy course really quite tragically ironic. I’m not entirely sure I’ll actually continue it. We’ll see.