Friday, December 7, 2012

Traditional vs. Online Schooling

     "Traditional" schooling is the professor-classroom relationship. Online classes require students to interact with more media to learn, selected by the professor. My view is that both formats are incomplete. A truly modern approach to teaching seamlessly integrates online and traditional formats. Students need to be able to access the information in as many ways as possible, and will need both lectures and independent study time.
     Undergraduate education is becoming more standardized, and this means more pedagogical media is available. For example, during my calculus courses, I found myself using the assigned textbook, Khan Academy, and three other books. My dad's text was useful for comparing definitions, and a popular math book provided a conceptual view of calculus and its history. Finally, I used a textbook written in 1910 that now exists on the public domain called Calculus Made Easy. This plethora of sources allowed me to really dig into the subject, and see it as something useful, and as a beautiful idea in a long history of ideas. I couldn't have found them without the internet.
     Parts of the traditional method could be abandoned. Professors can be the ones who identify when they are not being effective, and give students opportunities to pursue knowledge in a different way. The success of sites like Khan Academy show that students need a different format, and excel when that need is met. At the same time, those sites lack a holistic view, and cannot help students integrate their knowledge. The professor is there to ensure integration happens.
     Above all else, this should foster in students the desire to learn and self-assess, because the most important skill to learn as an undergraduate is how to teach oneself. An effective synthesis of methods would simply shift the emphasis from the professor-classroom relationship to the professor-student relationship.