A college education today is ridiculously expensive, and tomorrow it will be even more so. Can the Internet change that? Some people are hoping it will, Pacific Standard reports. They argue that online courses, or more specifically, massively open online courses (MOOCs) will make “the best courses, from the best professors, and the best schools” available to the masses at a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar education. MOOCs would solve the problem of a hefty college price tag while improving everyone’s educational experience to boot. But far from overturning the staid and overpriced traditional lecture model of education, MOOCs reinforce that model and conflict with recent research on how to teach technical subjects like science. The traditional classroom lecture has been a primary component of a college education for about as long as colleges have existed, but this approach to teaching makes some bad assumptions about the purpose of education, particularly education in science. As Nobelist and physicist Carl Wieman has argued, classroom lectures wrongly assume that the role of the instructor is simply to transfer knowledge, “as if it were bits of information, to the receptive students, much like pouring water from a large jug into a set of small receptive cups.” … While the best MOOCs have high production values and are designed using the latest research on how to transfer knowledge online, recent studies on how students learn science show that the key to effective teaching does not require the best professor from the best school, but rather an instructor who understands how to coach students in scientific thinking.

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