All schools and colleges are wrestling with the impact of the digital revolution on both the delivery of education and on the learning styles of our students. Online education is growing at 19% per year, online enrollment now represents 25% of all higher education enrollments, and demand for online courses is now greater than demand for corresponding face-to-face courses.
As the dust settles (I hope) we are faced with four main options for delivering education:
1. The Traditional Lecture: Mainly a monologue where information is delivered orally from one teacher to many students at a set time each week.
2. Distance/Online Learning: Individual students are given the course materials and assignments to work through on their own and at their own pace. Usually a solitary learning experience, with little student/teacher interaction and no student/student interaction. High dropout rate.
3. Flipped Classroom: Instead of lectures in the class and assignments at home, the class is “flipped” so that students watch/listen to the lecture at home in their own time, and come to class to work though problems, assignments, application of lessons together with the teacher and other students.
4. Blended Learning: This tries to combine the best of the previous three methods. Most (though not all) lectures are delivered online. Classroom time is given to working on assignments, testing learning, applying knowledge, discussion, and also to special lectures. In addition, technology is used to facilitate collaborative (student-to-student) learning via forums, etc.
Here’s a paper with a synopsis of some of the most significant online articles that have been written on the evolving educational scene over the past year or so. The research is increasingly showing that the Blended Learning model is the way of the future for many (though not all) subjects. The advantages, in summary, are:
- It costs the school less (30-50% less) and should therefore either reduce student costs or increase educational value.
- Reduced tuition increases accessibility of education to poorer individuals and communities.
- It saves time because the video lessons are prepared once and used (with some updating) thereafter. It also saves the student time because he/she does not need to be travelling to/from so many lectures.
- Research shows that students tend to complete the courses faster.
- The learning outcomes are equal to or better than traditional lectures.
- Class time used for practical application of knowledge.
- Emphasis not just on what you know, but can you use what you know. Not just the transmission/reception of information or ideas, but how to use them.
- More time for one-to-one mentoring, modeling, relationship building.
- Moves away from seat-time (credit hours) to competency.
- Tends to produce more creative and accurate assessment methods than traditional major paper plus end-of-semester exam.
- Plays to strengths of digital generation and provides means for constant student interaction and student-to-student teaching/learning.
- Reduces the need for new buildings.
- Increases personalization of education, customizing courses to individual learning styles, speeds, and needs.
- What do you think of these trends?
- Should seminaries just stick with the traditional methods?
- What’s your experience of these different methods?
- What are the best ways to make blended courses work?
- Are there any subjects that should always be taught by traditional lecture?
- Should schools offer different methods to suit different kinds of learners?
- What should be a professor’s role? Do we need professors dedicated to online teaching?