martes, 10 de noviembre de 2015



Online education: is it for everyone?

By Zarela Cruz


Online education has been promoted as “the latest tendency in education”. Therefore, many institutions are tailoring their curricula so that they can incorporate an online component. The question is, is it for everyone?

Going back to the basics
To have the complete picture, let’s go back to the basics. When online education started, it was  mainly used to offer short courses, and afterwards, both certificates and diplomas. As far as I remember, the final exam had to be face-to-face. Needless to say, students were mainly from Lima and only some of them, from provinces. Materials and assignments were normally loaded beforehand and the courses were well-structured, but something was missing: Instructors made the difference: specially when it came to  clarify doubts and reply students within a reasonable waiting time. Eventually, upper education institutions understood that to expand the target market, final exams should be online too, and so the story began.

Is that the solution we have been looking for?
This kind of courses has been promoted as the solution in our busy llves: we can study at our own pace and most importantly, from wherever we are. True, but not entirely. In Lima, access to internet is much faster than in provinces, which is a restriction in itself. Working in groups is not that easy, even when collaborative work does its share, On the other hand, few courses can be completed at your own pace within a time limit whilst most of them have a layout and each week you are expected to participate in forums and do an assignment. Work at your own pace then?  Yes, but within some limits.

Too good to be true?
Do not get me wrong. I do believe that online education can reach many more people and does not need to be syncronic. In that sense, there have been attempts to provide free education. Internationally, Coursera has a wide range of courses, and the main advantage is that your paying a fee for taking a course is not compulsory, although it is necessary to get an international certification.  The price is quite affordable. Too good to be true?  In Lima, I know of another   attempt: Aula Abierta which was an initiative to donate knowledge, but did not last very much. Classes were quite interesting. However,  they were not part of a programme, just isolated lessons from different courses.

Even high-reputed universities like Cambridge University started to offer online courses a few years ago and  they have expanded their course range based on the positive response. Even Harvard Universty has launched an online MBA and a virtual classroom. This is not the only attempt. Yale University’s Business School and other schools have tried out a live web-based classroom and the University of San Diego went much further: they put students in a virtual world, like a video game, where they can take seminars and interact! (see link below)

What now?
I am a firm believer that there is a lot more to develop in this field and that their findings will help to (re)design the online education in the coming years. But, is it for everyone? Is it applicable in the teaching of languages, for example? Do students at universities agree with having the online component in most of their courses? What is behind this decision? Just being updated with technology or increasing their profit? Is there an evaluation in terms of results regarding quality of education in blended courses at universities? What do you, dear reader, expect from online education as student yourself?

Leave a comment and share your experience with us!

References:
What we are learning from online education

Harvard launches virtual-classroom students

Biodata

Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s degree studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas. During her 20 years’ teaching experience, she has been a teacher trainer in Huaraz and Ayacucho and lectured in some Congresses for EFL teachers in Lima. In 2009 she designed materials for a virtual reading course becoming a tutor shortly afterwards. Since then, she has been taking online courses and certificates in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education and Working Adult Education and a number of online courses such as: Academic Research, From Teacher to Manager, Teacher of the 21st century among others. She is currently an online tutor.

15 comentarios:

  1. E-learning opens many possibilities to keep learning. Good article.

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    Respuestas
    1. Keep learning is a must these days. Due to globalization we have access now to universities and institutions we never dreamt of . Thank you for your feedback! ZC

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  2. I agree with you on the fact that there's still a lot to be developed in the area of online studies but we are on a good track. I think online courses can be really useful for people who are learning languages as it gives them the possibility to talk with native speakers as their teachers. Great article!

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    Respuestas
    1. There are different kinds of online courses and you can take them not only in your native language but in a foreign language. Interaction with your classmates will also be of help as well as the slides and/or videos that are course materials. Great post, Maixa!

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  3. Awesome article! I totally agree with the fact that there is a lot to do in this area. We, as students, should not be the exception to the rule and we may grow along with online education!

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    Respuestas
    1. You are right. Even when a lot has been done so far, I am sure we will witness more changes in this field . As you well said, let's grow along with online education! ZC

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  4. I believe that online education, came and will be, there is no way to stop technology, but there are many angles from which you can analyze, economic point of view is more beneficial for the entity that gives it does not have to have a physical place to dictate classes, only an initial investment to develop the course and monthly expenses of the person in charge of the same people who take the course online save mainly in the "time" that takes them to get to the place where we hold classes which is enough in our so busy lives, but on the other hand this factor of each person, such as reading comprehension and discipline.

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    Respuestas
    1. I couldn't agree more. Saving time in commuting and more affordable prices are two of the most important advantages for online students. However, without discipline you can not do much since you are allowed to study at your own pace within a schedule. We should not neglect this important requirement.ZC

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  5. Great article! I agree with you. I see these kind of courses just a supplementary tool. Don't take this the wrong way,It can give you comfortable schedules, a personalized idea of what you are interesting in, but the interaction, which is a main piece, is not the same due to internet connection problems that we have to deal with (especially in South America).

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    Respuestas
    1. You made a very good point! In some institutions, the online component is a must and complements face-to-face sessions.
      Regarding technological problems, they are beyond our control, but it is definitely an aspect to take into account when taking (and designing) this kind of courses. ZC

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  6. Great intervention! Learning a second language via online course? Maybe in industrialized countries where internet access is available for most people....What about people from villages in far away places? There is a lot of work to do from Central America all the way to Patagonia to implement this tool.

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  7. I definitely agree. Online education is a good way to learn, but there are some difficulties that people have to deal with, like technical problems, internet connection or to get familiar with platforms (this is tricky since the very beginning not all have a friendly surface)...Nevertheless, there is a long path to continue developing so it could be accessible for all. Great article!

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  8. In a way or another, both of you remarked the importance of internet access regarding online education. It is nice to see that you went beyond and expressed your concern for the ones that did not seem to have a voice. Ysabel went further: friendly platforms and last, but not least important, to be familiar with the new educational tools. Key points to take into account! ZC

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  9. Your article is really enlightening aboout the issue. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to put any trend in perspective. We all have experienced that novelties usually draw great attention at the beginning, and later, after a more balanced undertanding, they are grounded to earth and provide us with realistic acknowledgement. This is the case for technology in general. Nowadays, the people who design resources are demanding help from teachers in order to find more effective procedures to use them. We need to use our pedagogical expertise to incorporate these new materials into our teaching wisely.
    The following article from The Washington Post can give us more insight.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/06/never-send-a-human-to-do-a-machines-job-five-big-mistakes-in-education-technology-and-how-to-fix-them/
    Congratulations!

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    Respuestas
    1. It is nice to see that our blog allows teachers to share related links and elaborate more on the topic. Thank you very much for your interest and for sharing the related article!
      It is true that all approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Eventually, our expertise is what helps us to choose the right thing to do in class. They call it "to have an eclectic approach". I am sure you have had the chance to make up your own strategies based on what we have learnt and lived. Best of luck in your teaching practice!

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