The Role of Human Interaction in Online Education
There has been a long standing debate to determine how to measure the true value of obtaining an education. The two schools of thought both have valid points, is it to earn a degree that will help in the workplace, or does the value come from the act of learning itself? With the costs of obtaining a higher education rising, especially the price of attending an Ivy League school, it becomes even more difficult to calculate the cost and benefit ratio of getting a degree.
We tend to compare the cost of a four year education directly against the market value of the skills acquired. There is also a misperception that a good college education is only available to those willing to spend a couple hundred thousand on a four year degree from a prestigious private college. The advances of learning online are helping to bring back a balance to education and provide alternatives to the traditional campus experience while still keeping the important role of human interaction in online education.
Obtaining a four year degree online is more affordable and convenient. The introduction of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is even allowing students to enroll in some online courses for free. MOOCs are seen as having the potential to transform higher education by allowing everyone the same right to a quality education. Due to the positive response from students, more accredited universities are starting to offer MOOCs as part of their curriculum. Some MOOCs allow students to earn credit for completing the courses.
Online education gives students the opportunity to collaborate and learn in a format that is not possible in a brick and mortar classroom. However, the format of the online courses can also come with a lack of human interaction, which in addition to the degree is an important part of the learning experience. Although the courses are taught online and taken individually, there are still ways to keep the role of human interaction in online education.
One way to keep a more human element within the online course is to make sure the instructors do not have to become robotic. Rather than sticking to a rigid script, online video lectures should still continue to give instructors the opportunity to live in the moment and insert their own experience and passion for the subject material into the course.
Another way to help online learning provide a more human experience is to encourage interaction with course content rather than just focusing on a download of information to students through multimedia. The instructor can help to engage students by considering their responses to course material and providing follow-up questions that help to further develop learning.
A final example of how to create a more personalized online experience is to create opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers. Learning does not happen in isolation and engagement is just as important as the course material. One of the strengths of MOOCs is the diverse grouping of students that creates an environment to help learn through the knowledge of not only the instructor but others in the course. The interaction online can be facilitated through the use of live chats, discussion groups, and messaging.