The university drew public attention to Whose vs whos online education when a couple of renowned professors motivated more than 150,000 students from around the world to register as freelance students for artificial intelligence courses.
This company, however, says very little about the role that online courses can play as part of a standard curriculum. College managers who dream of applying such a strategy to teach, for example, basic English vocabulary, will face at least two serious problems math games for second grade.
First, the dropout rate is up to 90% for some large-scale online courses. This can also be a problem with a small number of students, especially compared to traditional face-to-face classes. Second, online study is more suitable for motivated students who have basic self-study skills and are well motivated to learn new things. But a significant proportion of students simply need close contact with their teacher to succeed, and distance learning is simply not suitable.
Lessons online are not new for schools, but the situation is not encouraging. According to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, about seven million people (about a third of all U.S. university students) have participated or are participating in what the center calls “traditional online courses. The average group consists of 25 students. Classes are taught by professors who do not actually interact with students. The center conducted nine sociological studies, studying hundreds of thousands of courses in Washington and Virginia. The conclusions are rather disappointing.
For example, the study found that distance learning college students, on average, have poorer program outcomes and are more likely to “fail” exams than students in traditional classes. In other words, they pay tuition without receiving anything in return. In lecture halls and classrooms, students with poor academic performance have a chance to get the minimum required knowledge. Distance learning does not give them this opportunity. Often they simply drop out without learning to do so.
A similar study was conducted in Washington State. The statistical sample included 51,000 students from community and technical colleges with two years of study. The initial data were collected over 5 years and processed in 2011. The findings are also disappointing: online course attendees are less likely to continue their quadrennial and degree studies. The reasons lie on the surface. Many undergraduate or graduate students do not know how to study on their own, do not know how to allocate time properly, and simply cannot master even basic math or English without the help of a teacher.
With a lack of faith in their abilities and gaps in basic knowledge, such students find it easier and more comfortable to cope with the help of teachers. And online, they feel alienated from the teacher, who, in turn, often does not even know his or her students in person.
Without significant improvements in distance learning methods, it makes no sense for universities to more actively integrate online classes into their learning process. Moreover, institutions with large numbers of students need remedial classes with some students. And some students need to demonstrate some success in “traditional” classes and only then be admitted to distance learning.
Interestingly, research has also been done in “hybrid” classrooms, where both online and more traditional forms of face-to-face learning have been practiced. Unfortunately, such hybrid forms of education are still rare, and it takes money and time to train professors to work in them.
The “Online Revolution” offers rich opportunities for expanding access to knowledge. But, as practice shows, poorly designed distance learning is far from contributing to these goals.