Online Learning

In a world of continuous disruption, where we are constantly debating the internet’s new role in our lives, I wonder how our school systems and classroom environments will be altered as we progress into the future. Today’s lunchtime discussion was focused on the physics and other science departments at UNC meeting to discuss a new teaching method referred to as “flipped.” These flipped classroom settings essentially work like this: pre-recorded video lectures are uploaded for students to access beforehand, and once the students have had the time to learn the material on their own, they meet in class for the sole purpose of discussing what they have learned.

Pharmaceutical professor Russell Mumper first implemented the system into his class here at UNC and conducted a personal study on its success. The DTH reported the professor’s problems with the typical classroom setting: “They’re on their mobile phones, they’re on their laptops, and they were just not engaged. I felt somewhat unfulfilled when I realized I wasn’t being as effective as I could.” The DTH report also included the students opinions, most of which were favorable to this teaching method.

The new lecture method allows students to learn at their own pace, a communication method that I think is crucial to optimize learning. The required class time also removes the possibility for students to slack off in their learning, as they might do if they were left to learn and practice the material completely on their own, perhaps such as in a completely online class. What I fear, is the potential of this method to move one step further into complete online learning. Internet video has allowed this flipped classroom to take effect. As new technologies become available, what is next for the classroom setting? Will physical institutions become a thing of the past if it becomes possible to achieve the same level of learning you can in a classroom setting in a virtual setting?

Systems such as Coursera mark a new path into the future that leads to the dismantlement of institutional learning. I partook in this system last year, as an intern with my law professor who was teaching the same course on Coursera that I had taken that spring. Comparing the two, I found there were very few differences. The playing field is leveling out, as anyone with an internet connection was able to virtually access and complete, for free, the same course I had paid out-of-state tuition to take that spring. It allows for globalized, higher level learning, independent of economic status or physical location. If learning was un-institutionalized, would there be human incentive to complete work?

This post has branched across a large assortment of paths that the classroom setting may take as it becomes disrupted. I’m not sure where we will head but whether it be our flipped classroom lectures, an institutional online course, or a freely accessible learning system, it is without a doubt that we are entering an era of online learning.

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