Is It Time To Dismantle the Lecture Hall?

03 Apr

In this debate, the question might not be so much about whether online education is effective, but whether it could be any worse than the existing model

By Dian Schaffhauser

When Anant Agarwal was in college, he would “follow the professor for the first five minutes” and then get lost and spend the next hour scrambling to keep up with note-taking. That’s no way to run a learning model, said this professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and CEO of edX, the storied MOOC site founded by Harvard and MIT.

On the other hand, “Online education will not replace the great colleges.” People learn from each other when they “work together, live together, sleep together,” said Jonathan Cole, professor at Columbia University and author of the 2011 book The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected.

Then again, contended Ben Nelson, the practice of paying a professor to teach just a few students each year is not exactly an economically viable model. Those who oppose the rise of massive open online courses are critiquing the current state, “not what the potential is,” added this founder and CEO of Minerva Project, a university opening in fall 2014 where students will live in close proximity and take classes online.

Of course, asserted Rebecca Schuman, MOOCs can be “great fun,” but they’re no replacement for college. This adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a columnist for Slate and the Chronicle of Higher Education said she believes that “more clicks means less contact.”

So go the arguments for and against (and for and against) the idea of online learning walloping the tradition of face-to-face instruction. As higher education evolves, has the lecture hall model become obsolete? In a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared on the campus of Columbia University, two teams of academic experts squared off to settle that question.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: ]

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in MOOCs in the News


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