mm181: Virtual classroom — real learning?

MUDGE’S Musings

Apparently it’s Education Week here at L-HC! Earlier we looked at the number of engineers we’re training in the U.S.; devoted the last third of a Short Attention Span pastiche to OLPC (One Laptop Per Child); and presented a devastating counter to the engineering story with one high school teacher’s indictment of today’s students (ratified by hundreds of comments).

Featured today is a most interesting look at on-line learning at the college level.


October 31, 2007 | On Education


The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here.

There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume.

In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers.

The virtual college classroom is an increasingly common phenomenon, especially, as the story reveals, since the U.S. Congress eliminated the requirement that colleges deliver at least half of their courses in bricks and mortar campuses in order to qualify for federal aid. As a result, nearly 3½million students attended one or more classes in this manner last fall, and the trend will undoubtedly increase in intensity.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Classroom of the Future Is Virtually Anywhere – New York Times

Constant reader remembers, MUDGE hopes, that his specialty is web conferencing. Collaboration using the web to share visual information, accompanied, in MUDGE‘s employer’s case, by a teleconference. Couldn’t help but notice that the story, while sometimes wringing hands over the impact of technology, shed very little light on exactly what technology is used to deliver all of these on-line classes.

One gets the impression that, due to the worldwide dispersion of the students illustrated, that the teaching/learning activity is asynchronous, rather than real-time collaboration.

There’s room for both, I think, since some of the quarrels that traditional professors expressed in the story, about the lack of enriching discussion and feedback, might be partially answered if real time oral discussion were at least a component of a course.

And a very constant reader might recall that, teaching web conferencing is another specialty of this writer. I am by no means qualified or credentialed to teach in college, but every single one of the 3,600 students I’ve taught (yes, in a corporate environment — no frat parties!) over the past five years has been instructed on line, via teleconference with accompanying web conference.

Definitely viable. Add telepresence (here and here) for those PhD dissertation defenses, and the deal is done. Another paradigm shift rumbling underfoot…

Can’t help but wonder, though.

The U.S. higher education system, wonder of the planet, has also increased its fees so consistently that tuition growth has long outpaced (doubled? tripled? higher?) the domestic rate of inflation, however it’s computed.

One student in five took one or more on-line classes last year. Anyone notice tuition going down as a result of the undoubted smaller operations costs?

It’s it for now. Thanks,



One Response to mm181: Virtual classroom — real learning?

  1. kic says:

    Don’t sell yourself short. Longer thoughtful articles from citizen journalists like yourself are more worthwhile than my down/dirty scales. Thanks for visiting and keep up the good blogging. We’ll try to come back often.

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