I remember my seventh grade science teacher. I remember the jokes she would make and the experiences she would share. Everyone has these memories of their teachers. Yet, soon this will be no more. Soon, kids will be saying that the name of their science teacher was Mac or PC, and the only experience that they will remember is sitting in a barren computer lab. Education as we know it is being reformed, and for the worse. More and more schools are shuffling kids into cold computer labs, and knowledge is being halted at the door.
I had the horrific opportunity to experience online learning for a few weeks when, after my Advanced Placement biology teacher took a leave of absence, my principal decided that online learning would be the best alternative to hiring a new teacher right away. Just as fast as I was shoved into a computer lab, I realized the biggest issue with online education: cheating. We all know that many people cheat throughout their academic education. However, online education provides a catalyst for cheating. Spanish class? Use a translator. Math class? Plug the problem into Wolfram Alpha. Biology? Go to Yahoo Answers. Not only are students cheating themselves, they are cheating the system. Students who are not enrolled in these classes may have lower grades because they are honest. Is that fair? The online interface just provides you with a digital copy of a textbook and then quiz after quiz, test after test. With unlimited time to take these quizzes and tests, all one has to do is copy and paste the questions into Google -- and your answer awaits you. No one bothers to read the material and absorb information. Why would they, when the correct answer is just a click away?
Online education turns a center for learning into a diploma factory.
Advocates for online education may say that the cost of forcing kids into a computer lab is much cheaper than paying for a teacher, paper, textbooks, etc. But wait. This sounds a lot like what Greg Smith recently said in his New York Times Op-Ed "Why I'm Leaving Goldman Sachs."
"I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them," Smith said.
It's a shame that this exact quote applies not only to millionaire clients but curious, innocent kids in schools. Not a single minute is spent asking questions about how we can better educate. It is purely about how we can save the most possible money. Education is being held hostage to greedy principals and chancellors. These people only care that on a transcript it says that a student received an education. They don't care one iota about the quality or medium of that education.
It holds true that online education provides an alternative opportunity to kids who are homebound or cannot access education due to location. Other students may not have adequate teachers, sufficient learning materials or limited course offerings. However, rather than putting these pupils into a computer lab, why can't we take the money being spent on online education and put it towards new materials, new teachers and better training?
The social implications of online learning are also detrimental. Personal experiences with the topic to help the student better understand the materials are not shared. There is no one a student can ask a question relating to the subject or just an interesting tangent. Part of growing up is questioning and being curious. Online education limits that childish curiosity, Interacting with your teacher also teaches you social queues and how to respect adults. When you are sitting in a cold computer lab, what social interaction are you getting?
Online education also has fewer deadlines or none at all. Students are often given the entire term to complete all the material. This means that someone can do no work for months but then complete all of the assessments the week before the due date. How is this teaching kids proper time management? This does not teach kids how to be responsible and how to efficiently complete their work.
There is no thought being put into quality education anymore. Any school that uses online learning systems should not be called a school. Online education is growing at an exponential rate. If this continues, not only will our children be not as intelligent, they will not have learned appropriate social skills. Students at a young age need living, breathing teachers. Students need this not only so the teachers can nurture the student's brains appropriately, but also so they can mold students into well-rounded leaders of the future.
To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, whatever the cost of traditional learning, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. Do you believe our world can afford to switch to online education?