The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is well known throughout the world for the quality and the breadth of their degrees. A glance down their list of online learning material demonstrates just how advanced this sector of the market is in developing universally recognised degree courses. Some students will achieve their degrees without every having to step onto the campus.
There is still face to face teaching with live on line lessons. The video camera allows the students to see the lecturer – and the lecturer can still pick up on individual students. Naturally there is also still a place for one to one seminars. Full access to lecture notes and prescribed books is available through the internet.
Many of us are well used to the breadth and extent of the virtual world. Zones like Face Book, Twitter and the like allow us to communicate and engage in conversations that can range from the intimate to the expansive. This allows students to feel that they are part of the community – and are not divorced from the rest of the university.
The great majority of university students all over the world must hand in their assignments in a type written form. It is to be expected if many more email their work. Can you remember back to when you were a student? You were told that Wednesday 17.00 was the deadline for handing the work in. You ran up the stairs to the lecturer’s room to join five other students trying to push their essays under the door. How were you to prove that you had completed the task by 17.00 and not 17.55? (You suspect that the lecturer was sipping sherry in the common room.) Email is the answer – because your work is date and time stamped. You may miss the camaraderie and wise cracks as you gathered in front of the door – and the speculation about the lecturer’s personal habits - but you may have been able to spend the time better quaffing your own sherry rather than running around with an assignment under your arm.
When the eleven plus was envisaged all those years ogo the architects would not have been able to see a situation where an eleven plus child had access his or her tutor through the internet. Live one to one interaction is still an essential part of learning for many children. A child attending the tutor’s home once a week may have to wait a few days in order to be able to ask a question. A live video hookup with the tutor means the answer can be discussed, mulled over and supplied in seconds.
Of course there will be concerns about the reliability and validity about an online assessment and subsequent lessons. It is possible that many eleven plus parents and children see on-line assessment as no more than completing a multiple choice test – see the mistakes and receiving a result. Is there the ability to have the questions read to their child – because no one will be helping with any questions in the examination. Are the questions bathed in colour with possibly little animations or are the questions simply static without any dynamism.
How do children brought up in a digital age – who can turn a video recorder on and fast forward at three years old, and click on the Cbeebies icon and find the iplayer zone confidently, feel about working on-line?
“Which do you prefer – a mouse or a pencil?”
“Actually I don’t even use a mouse any more – I just tell my computer what to do. Give me pixels any time!”
By the way – will your child opt for an on-line degree in time to come and thus save a lot of money?