The New York Times has published an opinion piece offering a valid critique of online learning. While I’m pro complimenting teaching with technology where productive, the article underscores the central deficiency in 100% online learning: the lack of human contact. The author, Mark Edmundson, professor of English at the University of Virginia argues:

“A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.”

I tend to agree that this will be the saving feature of bricks and mortar learning institutions. Conversely, what can be done to online teaching environments to make them more productively and collaborative social? Could dating sites be integrated with MOOCs?


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