By Daphne Koller
In my previous column I suggested that new developments in on-line teaching bring with them a loss of community and human interaction. Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, has been invited by the editors and me to reply to my account of her position. — Stanley Fish
My fellow professor Stanley Fish makes some very valid points about Derek Bok’s “Higher Education in America” in his recent column, “The Two Cultures of Education Reform”; however, it’s valuable to highlight two alternative perspectives regarding the use of technology in higher education. First, when we discuss the role of digital media within the context of education reform, we do not want to confound forward technological progress with a rejection of all that came before us. Second, we must leverage, not fight against, the changing tide of the preferences of a new generation — the digital natives.
In “Higher Education in America,” I’m quoted as saying that with the help of the digital media, “we can release ourselves from the shackles that we have gotten used to in the context of in-class teaching.’” Here, I’m referring to the potential of online education to enhance, and not replace, professors’ interactions with their students. Giving the same lectures time and again takes up thousands of hours of a professor’s time. By making more lectures and informational materials available to students online, along the same lines of assigning work from a textbook, professors can be freed to spend more time engaging in high-quality activities and discussions with their students.
I have consistently rejected the argument that an online learning format can or should take the place of physical interactions between peers and professors. Instead, we work closely with our university partners to enhance the quality of on-campus teaching through technology. This type of effort has seen validated successes. The University of Wisconsin at Madison, for example, has been doing flipped classroom teaching for almost a decade, combining online content with active learning in the classroom. They have demonstrated significant success in reducing the student failure rate in introductory engineering courses. A similar model has been applied in multiple other settings, including at the University of Minnesota, the joint medical school of Duke and the National University of Singapore and the Technion in Israel.
[ Full article available at The New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/digital-natives-a-defense-of-the-internet-community/ ]