Thoughts about online education

There are schools and unis that are currently offering online and blended courses which don’t really take advantage of the digital aspect, well in my opinion. What I mean is that a scanned book is just the same as a book while 10 lessons of PDF documents summarising a book(s) is more hassle than reading the relevant book chapter(s). Some then add the odd online test or a ‘chat’ but not everyone participates, it’s often not monitored and it could be so much better!

The problem seems to be that these schools are just trying to recreate the normal course but online. BAD IDEA! They are also charging more for online courses and if you fall into the ‘overseas student’ category OUCH! You may need to sell another kidney.

Distance learning, in whatever context, has the potential to be limitless but it needs a different mind shift and a manager to see how best to present and work on subjects. This is mainly based on the principle that we now get our information from a variety of sources and we also like more social discussions and reflections as well as working on our ideas/interpretations/applications. Not to mention the fact that the gap between the book writing expert and us students is shortening, thanks to the net.

I think modern distance courses should have:

1)Video lectures by experts replacing pages and pages of PDFs about the same thing

2)Audio recordings of teachers accounts of classroom teaching

3)In-house and external webinars and after webinar chats being incorporated into the course

4)Case studies of real teachers using the theories/ideas you are covering

5)As practical as possible in that you are encouraged to try out everything and then have Google hangouts with your support groups to discuss experiences

6)Theories and models presented in accessible and easily digested format(see all of the above)

7)Student-initiated discussions with staff/experts on topics they choose using video conferencing

8)Less written assignments and more recorded presentations, lessons and projects

9)More teacher-created materials and resources from worksheets to blogs and online activities

10)More choice of options or even no set courses but 9 mini research projects where groups choose subjects they are interested in and then through guided research/action research etc are guided though a student-centred course that covers exactly what they need.

11)Internationally co-ordinated learning via cross uni/school links.

12)Online teaching/tutoring practice

Sounds a lot more interesting than reading 10 weeks of PDFs, doing 2 online chats and writing a 5000 word report, doesn’t it?

Here’s a Twitter comment when I asked about this subject 2 months ago:

Bekah and Tim Palmer ‏ @palmerlanguage

“IMO a good MA TESOL curriculum should include cross-cultural awareness & research training…and more (advanced) linguistics”


1)Are distance students getting the same value as on-site ones?

2)How can we improve online learning for everyone?


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