Comment on If We’re Moving Classes Online, Where Are They Leaving From?

@warstrekkid Full-time, in-person university education is a privilege.  Distinctions between learning and teaching should be appreciated.  Unlike high school where (sometimes coercive “push”) teaching is required for adolescents, university education should student centered with opportunities to “pull” knowledge from some of the world’s great thinkers.  In-person participation enables interaction, and shouldn’t be confused with artifacts — which may be low-tech (e.g. reading lists, presentation slides) or high-tech (e.g. digitally recorded audio or video).

The role of the instructor can be compared to that of a parent versus a babysitter.  While we might be content with a babysitter placing a child in front of a television for an hour — a non-interactive experience — we would be aghast at a parent who continually did that.  Parenting, particularly in early childhood development, normally expects a high degree of interaction for the infant or toddler to benefit.

Comment on If We’re Moving Classes Online, Where Are They Leaving From? at

… university courses in their entirety are being offered online, with graded homework and a certificate to boot. I’m most familiar with offerings from Stanford, but I think others are jumping on the bandwagon, too.

The reasoning behind it is sound. A lot of coursework is moving online anyways as convenience for students, and it seems like the right thing to do. I’m fortunate enough to be a student at a well-funded private university, but that luxury isn’t available to most people. With the popularity of this model from sites such as Khan Academy and the pipeline to do it, it seems almost unfair to restrict the content to the few who can afford it.

It’s not perfect. For many classes, there’s no replacement for the ability to work hands-on and in-person for a class. You lose the physical environment of a college campus and the ability to collaborate with instructors and other students directly. Some argue that the most valuable part of college is not the class but the people you meet. If you can’t have that, though, this is pretty close. The traditional teaching model with hour-long lecture and problem sets don’t really involve interaction to a large degree.

At the risk of sounding privileged and snooty, however, I’m a little disappointed by how this change is being embraced in class design for in-person students. Since this was an initiative in the Stanford Computer Science department, I’ve taken several classes and am currently taking a class that are now in the online format. To accommodate the students, they’ve made some changes to how the class is taught, both for online and in-person students. And I think they’re a little worse for it.