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    • As a teacher I've often wondered why online courses and self-directed learning programs are not more successful. Why is something as seemingly simple as teaching not transferable to technological solutions? Why is an in person teacher so much more successful than online courses? Well they aren't always but more often than not they are. Over the years I've come to think that some people are higly motivated and have the skill to do courses on their own while others simply aren't. But it can't be that simple can it? Still unsatisfied with why so many online or self directed programs have failed I've continued my search for an answer that still largely alludes me.

      This article offers some insights into the problems with online courses as well as what students benefit and which ones don't:

      Why haven't tech companies been able to eliminate the teacher? What is it about human in person connections that is so important? Can this ever be overcome? The aforementioned video suggests struggling students are the least likely to succeed at this method and yet are the most likely to be directed towards it. Each of us is capable of learning or teaching ourselves so why can't these courses teach everyone?

    • Why is something as seemingly simple as teaching not transferable to technological solutions?

      Several years ago, I sat in on vendor presentations from a half dozen edtech companies. Having used a blended learning approach with struggling learners, I was able to bring up concerns, advantages and issues for each platform that the school district executives lacked insights on. It allowed the decision makers to make an informed decision on which platforms to eliminate from consideration. Some of the platforms were literally just an online textbook with a test at the end of each chapter. Others were video lessons taught by engaging instructors combined with practice sessions that provide immediate feedback after every incorrect response. Unfortunately, determining the right software solution is a common challenge for organizations regardless of whether it’s to acquire edtech, HRIS, CMS or ERP. You need to get end users who can not only test the full program demos but can communicate their feedback in sufficient detail. You need IT to assess whether the existing network is too slow to handle a video-intensive platform. You need management to determine whether the canned reports are sufficient to effectively manage or whether there’s the resources or budget to create customized reports.

      But to your central point of why can’t technology replace teachers? Because struggling students often need encouragement to try. If you’re a straight A honors student, you have sufficient self-motivation to learn even if you’re learning from an imperfect online learning system. Struggling learners benefit the most from teachers who care. Remove them from the equation and it’s not surprising that edtech fails to deliver on its promise.

    • Anecdotally - I retired from a university library and had several students taking online classes. The ones who failed, almost to a student, said once they got lost they could never catch up. Not having a face to face instructor who could see when they were struggling and adjust accordingly, they got into a hole they couldn’t dig out of.

    • Welcome to Cake, MickieB. 🙂 Great insight.

      In my crazy past, I once owned a big computer bookstore named Computer Literacy in San Jose. To draw people into the store, we held book signings and some training classes. One of the authors who wrote good books on design and taught great classes was a woman named Lynda.

      Later on, she and her husband started Lynda.com, which LinkedIn eventually bought for $1.5 billion. They offered a class on Adobe Premiere and I bought it because I was transitioning from Apple's Final Cut and advanced photo editing software is hard to learn.

      The course was taught in 8-minute video segments by Ashley Kennedy, and I have rarely loved a class as much as that one. I didn't go through the videos sequentially, instead I would call one up before trying something like color correction, or variable speed editing. I'd watch a little, pause, try a little, play, try some more until I really got it. Many times I had to back up and more often than not I would forget how to do something and have to call up the video and watch a segment again. Best money I ever spent on a course.

      For little things, I often turn to YouTube, but the quality is so variable, I don't recognize the names, yada. I don't know for Udemy and Khan Academy, but I've heard they're pretty good?

    • So for some applications and some people they are effective and relatively cheap. But why can't they make it work for the masses? You Chris are big into computers and computer software. People like that are constant learners and are particularly well suited to online courses provided they are flexible enough. It still all seems so incredible that merely having a person to encourage you and get you back on track is all that stands between the end of schooling as we know it and a new era. So many people have prognosticated the end of traditional classroom teachers but we seem no closer to that reality than we were 30 years ago. How then can we improve the learning experience? Education seems little changed in the past 100 years and technology in it's myriad of forms has done little to improve the learning of students. Are we no closer to Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society and should that be our goal? Do we simply give up and wait for augmented intelligence?

    • Many times I had to back up and more often than not I would forget how to do something and have to call up the video and watch a segment again.

      Rewind is the most powerful aspect of online learning, IMHO.

      A child who would rarely receive the teacher’s tutoring in an overcrowded classroom is now able to view the lesson a second or third time to mastery.

    • Thanks for the welcome, Chris (I’m Queen on ADV). Love the content and format here.

    • Some things can be learned on your own, usually technical skills. I learned how to root my phone, install custom ROMs etc just from reading instructions online, sometimes asking for help through forums etc. But for more academic based learning, I feel a teacher can never be replaced. While knowledge can be transferable to the digital world, experience can not. A teacher's experience is what enables them to teach students with differing levels of understanding in different ways. While digital approaches are a one-size-fits-all approach, teachers can approach students differently depending on their respective levels of understanding of a given subject. I even prefer to meet with my PhD supervisors for some help sometimes rather then communicate via emails. A discussion between teachers and students can be more stimulating than a student learning from an online course.

    • I just got home from parent teacher interviews and a parent asked me about Khanacademy.org (It's an online video education platform that is free and helps people learn a wide variety of things. It started as a math education project but has since been expanded widely.) I told the parent essentially the same thing you just did: "the nice thing about it is you can pause, rewind or even fastforward the video. Wouldn't it be nice for students if they could do that with their teachers?" It's very insightful of you to mention that aspect of video learning.

    • Passion and motivation to learn. It works great when someone like this girl is so driven to learn it but what do we do for kids who aren't interested in learning it? I guess we have to figure out how to make learning relevant to the student. To make it something that they want to learn. How do you make math interesting if they find it a struggle and dislike it? How do you make any curriculum students don't like interesting? That's maybe an even tougher question. It's always been my feeling that students are not allowed enough freedom to learn their subjects at the time they want to learn it. They may for example get all into the math they are working on and then the bell goes and they are shuffled off to their next class. Maybe they are totally engaged in a social debate but the bell goes and whisked off again. This just doesn't make sense. So many restrictions and not enough flexibility in the education system.

      Oh, super cool that girl in the video had dirt bike posters on her bedroom wall :)

    • So we will need to make programs more flexible for the student. Not simply able to change the pace to meet their needs but to change the vocabulary level, type of pictures, depth of the material and so on. Material often assumes certain background knowledge but many kids don't have it so...the programs will also have to provide links to background information. But then the program becomes longer. Maybe the student isn't up to the task of focusing for that long... I'm trying to think of what things have made me a successful teacher at times. Quickly adapting to the student's ability, giving them something that's just a bit ahead of where they're at, encouraging them, using some kind of hook to get them interested and knowing that different students require different things to help get them engaged. As a teacher you have to be very adaptable. Programs will have to know the student in some way. Maybe each student can have some kind of information that follows them and is input into the program in a way that lets the program adapt to their needs and interests. JazliAziz you've got me thinking... :)

    • Maybe each student can have some kind of information that follows them and is input into the program in a way that lets the program adapt to their needs and interests. JazliAziz you've got me thinking... :)

      CV, @JazliAziz has me thinking a lot after most of their reflections: it’s usually because of a perspective or insight that I lack is shared.

      Thank you, @cvdavis, for being a teacher and making a difference in your students’s lives. This is why you should never be replaced:

    You've been invited!