Online Learning: To Do is To Be

Frank Sinatra

Chairman of the Board

There is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that declares “In Online Courses, Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching.” Never mind how incredibly obvious this is – but the article completely ignores any distinction between online classes and MOOCs, not to mention cMOOCs and xMOOCs. And guess what? There supposedly is something called “Traditional MOOCs” which from the description, they mean the passive learning mass firehoses from MIT and Stanford. Those MOOCs are not traditional unless it is the tradition of technocrats mistakingly thinking that providing opportunities to watch videos is the same thing as education. cMOOCs provide for student-student interaction. xMOOCs tend to be recorded videos and tests – the latest version of the correspondence course.

The article’s big claim that “just watching videos — without also engaging interactively — is an ineffective way to learn” is true in all modes of education delivery, not just online. I wish the Comical of Higher Ed was just as vigilant in posting articles about the dangers of passive classroom lectures. It is as if the last 35 years of research into active learning had never taken place.

It is amazing that some of the same educators that insist on using the lecture method to teach will attack the xMOOCs as passive learning. Lectures can be interactive and engaging, but not “traditional lectures.” The lecture method is basically a modern anachronism that has no real place in learning. It was meant as a way for the lecturer that is the “reader” to read from an original source so the students could take notes. We have invented moveable type, we do not need to do that any more. When I was teaching writing, I converted all of my classes into workshops.

So to recap: xMOOCs say to be is to do, online classes say to do is to be, and Sinatra says do be do be doo…

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