I was asked this week to think about the considerations I would take when designing an online course. Frankly, I think specific online courses will eventually phase out. Students' attention spans are limited and ain't nobody got time for that. The true future of education will be an a la carte experience where students can watch online videos, Google graphics, and download chapters of books, like singles instead of an album and cobble together a playlist for their own personal curriculums. Learning will eventually break free of the constraints of time and place when students can simply do an internet search for anything they want to know by pulling out the super-intelligent piece of glass in their pocket.
I did my own quick search to help build my own playlist to inform this blog post, and I came up with two of my favorite vloggers: CGP Grey and Veritasium (videos below).
As long as all the information is equivalent, there is no significant difference between methods of delivery. Studies have shown that if they all say the same thing, then a classroom lecture, a video, and a book are all on a level playing field when it comes to successfully teaching content.* But many of those studies were so focused on creating a controlled experiment where each media was equally effective, or equally ineffective, that they failed to ask the question "What experiences best promote learning?"
That question is being answered now. Recent research has concluded that combining technologies carefully can promote more effective learning. The danger is over-using or over-crowding the video, presentation, graphic, etc. It can be easy to distract or confuse your audience.
CGP Grey (the one with the stick figures and the sexy radio voice) believes that the internet will eventually make teachers and the traditional classroom obsolete. The internet provides students access to more teachers and more information, and could eventually create individuated curriculums for each person, or "A Digital Aristotle for Everyone."
Derek (Veritasium, or "Pretty Derek, as he is referred to by Grey) argues that while the internet is the the new source for content, effectively replacing the old model of what a teacher was, the teacher becomes even more valuable as the coach or facilitator. They are there to guide the student, but the student need not rely on them for information. "The job of the teacher is to inspire, to excite, and to challenge the student to want to learn."
This is what art education has been for years. Teachers ask students to go out in the world, look around them, experience their environment, then return to the studio ready to apply their findings to their work. Where both Grey's and Derek's predictions appeal to me is that they both call for students to take ownership of their educations and actively engage in what they are learning. A student's success should not be limited to their immediate teacher's own talents, expertise, and style. I never want my kids to be constrained by what I do not know.
*This doesn't take into account Multiple Intelligence Theory, which is another post for another time.