Virtual Learning: A Closer Look
On the grounds of Harvard Yard there stands a three-story brick colonial that dates back to when Teddy Roosevelt was president. If you could visit this building, Emerson Hall, and peer inside its hallowed rooms at the right time of day, you’d see a group of very privileged students engrossed in learning about the ancient Greek hero in classical literature.
Supposing you had an interest in Greek classics, too … Is there anything stopping you from joining them? Well yes, you might say, several things. You don’t live in Massachusetts. You’re not sure you could get in if you did, and you don’t exactly have thousands of dollars lying around for tuition.
But what if you could take that same Harvard course, taught by the same guy, Professor Nagy, at home for free? You can – that course and hundreds of others on topics ranging from art history to quantum mechanics, offered not only by Harvard but universities including MIT, Stanford, Yale and Princeton.
Perhaps you already know I’m talking about MOOC, the phenomenon that’s rapidly changing the way we view higher education. Massive Open Online Courses allow anyone with internet access to enroll in courses at some of the most prestigious universities. I’d like to share with you some of the advantages and disadvantages I see from the many years I’ve spent working in the virtual learning sphere.
3 Advantages to Virtual Learning:
- Plus: Convenience. Anyone from Illinois to Thailand who wants to enroll in a course at Berkeley or the University of Texas now can, unimpeded by geography.
- Plus: Diversity. Consider how interesting class discussions would be if they included ideas from students all over the world, of all income brackets and backgrounds.
- Plus: Access. College applications typically require tests and transcripts, letters of recommendation and essays. Not so with MOOCs. Enrollment is easy and classes are free.
3 Disadvantages to Virtual Learning:
- Minus: Attrition. Because enrollment is so easy and costs nothing, the courses attract massive numbers of students, the majority of whom never actually do the work and earn a certificate.
- Minus: Detachment. Unlike classroom learning or the small group online courses I teach, MOOCs can’t give students the one-on-one attention they sometimes need.
- Minus: No college credit. Depending on the university, students who complete a course may be eligible to receive a certificate of completion but usually not college credit.
Of course many people aren’t looking for college credit anyway. They just love to learn and want to take advantage of the best instruction out there. If that’s you, I urge you to check out the offerings! Then, when you do choose a course, remember this type of learning requires a high level of self-discipline. Create a schedule for yourself with chunks of time blocked off for your studies.
Need some help or advice? Please call me. I’m a learning addict too and have spent the majority of my life in school, either working toward a degree or taking enrichment classes. I’d love to help you get on your way!
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net/anankkml