Unit 2: Learning via the Internet

By now you may be wondering why Professor Gernsbacher chose to teach this class exclusively online. Well, her article “Why Internet Based Education?” answers this question. There are five main points that Professor Gernsbacher argues in her article:

  1. Internet based higher education can lead to better mastery 
    • Shorter, more frequent assignments lead to better mastery than longer, less frequent assignments. In person classes typically meet 2-3 times a week, but internet based courses can be designed so that they require the student to engage with the material daily. In this class, we have 1-2 assignments due daily, requiring us to log on often.
    • My Experience: Having to log on and complete a small assignment everyday has definitely helped me master the material. There hasn’t been an extended period of time where I haven’t logged on, really forcing me to learn and remember the material.
  2. Internet based higher education can optimize performance
    • Everyone has an optimal time of day for performance. The older you get, the earlier that time is. Since internet based education can be accessed online at any time, it allows students to complete their classwork at the optimal time for them.
    • My Experience: I have also found this point to be true. Having the flexibility of an online education has been great, because I can get my work done when I want to.
  3. Internet based higher education can deepen memory
    • Internet based education must assess deeper levels of processing. If the answer to an exam question can be found online, it is not a good question. For this reason, professors need not be concerned about cheating in online classes.
    • My Experience: So far in the class every assignment I’ve seen has been based on critical thinking and analysis, or opinion, making it pointless to try to use the internet to cheat on assignments.
  4. Internet based higher education can promote critical thinking
    • There is a ton of information available online, about any subject. Want to learn more about health education, anatomy, or history? The information is just a google search away. The accuracy of the information is often underestimated, but research has shown that Wikipedia is just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. Additionally, gathering information online as opposed to reading a textbook facilitates critical thinking.
    • My Experience: When I heard that there was no textbook for this class, I was initially skeptical because I’ve never taken a class any other way. After being in this class, I prefer not having a textbook and using a wide variety of sources for information because I feel like I’m learning more.
  5. Internet based higher education can enhance writing skills
    • The internet is inherently text based, and online classes can capitalize on this. The main form of communication is written discussion posts, forcing students to write frequently, and to a broader audience than just the professor.
    • My Experience: Each discussion post I’ve had to do in this class has gotten a little bit easier because I’m getting more practice writing every day.

As the five points illustrate, the internet is a great tool for learning new information. So great in fact, that one man set up his own online academy that you may be familiar with called Khan Academy. At Khan Academy, users can get a short lesson on just about any topic. The site started when it’s founder, Salman Khan, quit his job to make lecture videos in his home study in a way he wished that they would have been taught to him. The site gained popularity quickly since it started in 2006, and now has over 1,400 lecture videos. If Khan doesn’t know about a topic that he wants to teach, he’ll quickly give himself a crash course  and make a video about it. He is quickly changing the way students are learning online.

Khan Academy is not the only place to learn online though- Pinterest, YouTube, and many other sites offer tutorials teaching a wide variety of skills. Want to learn how to change a flat tire? Click HERE. Want to learn how to turn a lemon into a candle? Click HERE. Your options are endless. One assignment we had for this class involved doing two DIY projects, and then posting our results. I used YouTube to learn how to make an origami flower, and how to turn an old candle into a makeup brush holder. You can see my results below:

Other students chose to teach themselves with the help of the internet how to tie a tie, how to fold a fitted sheet, how to correctly do a sit up, and tons of other useful skills.

In the article “Napster, Udacity, and the Academy” author Clay Shirky discusses how technology changed the way we listen to music, and how it is now changing the way we learn. Fifteen years ago, Napster, an online music store launched and became the fastest growing piece of software ever. The recording industry sued Napster and won, causing it to fall as quickly as it had risen. The record company won that battle, but lost the war because shortly after, Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes happened. The record companies may have been successful in shutting down Napster, but the idea behind it- putting the user in charge and allowing them to purchase songs individually, or to stream music for free- could not be stopped, leading to the collapse of the record industry.

Today, the same thing is beginning to happen with the education industry with MOOCs (massive open online courses). MOOCs usually consist of a series of video lectures with self-scoring tests and written materials, that attract hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Additionally, MOOCs are often taught by professors at elite universities like Yale, and are completely free of cost.

As the price of universities increases exponentially over time, many people are looking towards alternatives to receive an education, specifically online classes. Programs like MOOCs expand education to those excluded from the traditional higher education system, and they are definitely something to look out for in the future as the cost of college becomes unaffordable to the general population.

To sum it all up, online education has many advantages over an exclusively in-person education, and it’s an incredible tool that can be used to learn almost anything. In the future, it is likely that it will become even more influential in the higher education industry than it already is.

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