Following on from my recent article about online education there was an interesting news article on the BBC website today which you can read here which is about the news that Edinburgh University is to be the first UK institution to join an influential US-based online university project. Many US universities are now providing online courses which have seen tens of thousands of people sign up for.
Whatever happens in the US happens over here in the UK so I think we can expect to see many other UK educational instituations offering online courses.
Only time will tell how engaging and successful these courses will be. In my opinion there does need to be some form of communication, mentoring and contact between student and teacher for there to be effective learning and how this will be done is going to be very interesting to see. It could be that the student has to go to the university from time to time or it could be that the student communicates by video link.
What is just as interesting is the business model that these online universities are using. They are offering free courses and intend to generate income in other ways from the huge number of students that they will have.
Because these online courses are free there seems to be a high number of students who fail to finish the course. Part of a teachers job is to offer encouragement, guidance and advice and this could be difficult if you don’t see your students.
In any event, educational establishments need to be gearing up to combat the threat of these online universities because in not too many years their “customers” might be tempted to go online rather than learn in the traditional way!
One of the universities pioneering online teaching is Stanford University. You can read about their online teaching and how they aim to retain personal contact here