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David Levine

Research Scientist, University of Tennessee


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Online Education versus Traditional Education for College/University.

With the proliferation of on-line Colleges and Universities, I wonder if the long-term outcomes will be different; by different I mean worse. I would argue that the social experience of going to a traditional College is better for most individuals. The direct face-to-face interactions with professors and peers, the ability to join clubs, play sports, join Fraternities and Sororities, etc. all are learning experiences. Learning to interact with others, work as a team, take instruction, etc., are all part of the learning experience.

I am completely for hybrid courses and even taking a few courses on-line. What I would argue against is the 4 year degree that can be obtained in your kitchen. There are lots of statistics on each side (you can always find the news you want). But for the typical post-HS student (not adults wanting to gain a degree) I would argue that traditional education is better from a standpoint of helping one develop as a mature individual who can contribute to society.


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  • Jan 8 2014: Part of the problem with defining a new education system is the standards are defined by OLD people with OLD tools. To make any real progress we need NEW people with NEW tools.
    “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”- Socrates
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      Jan 9 2014: I've heard this argument a lot lately. The thought that OLD people with OLD tools run Universities is really not accurate. Most Universities are extremely progressive and offer a lot of options for traditional courses, hybrid courses, and on-line courses. Some of the on-line Universities are just money making machines with graduation rates that are pitifully low. A lot of these companies just see on-line education as a way to make money, the student success is not paramount. If you think of how quickly the on-line craze has happened, have we really had time to evaluate the outcomes?
      • Jan 9 2014: I agree Doc that some are changing but only because they are being forced to change or go broke just like silicon valley went through the evolution and then the dot com companies evolved and right now the majority of our computer-clueless labor force is feeling the pressure to learn or be left out in the cold. How can a University compete when one online professor can teach hundreds of thousands of students and when real-time streaming students can observe experiments all over the world with the click of the mouse. Even here at TED where some of the finest speakers in the world can communicate with millions of people around the world simultaneously, and then hundreds of thousands of people can discuss what they heard or bring up their own topic for discussion over a period of months. The Universities are not doing this to be progressive, they are doing it to survive and they are very close to being obsolete already. Do you know of even one board of director under the age of sixty in any traditional college?
        A lot of these on-line Universities you are talking about are amateur rip-off's and they will not succeed in the long run. The model that is working and has been for years is the Google model, offer everything for free until you get your crowd and then slowly make your fortune on advertising. Facebook did it and so have hundreds of social companies. Smart Universities will follow the same model, they already have the text, pictures and video so the next step is offer it for free to millions and make your money on advertising! Think of the headline:
        "Professor David Levine University of Tennessee teaches 100 million students this semester and only charges $1 per student" or free for students and make $100 million on advertising.
        I get my education for $1, you get $100 million... we are both very happy right?
        Did I mention the advertising goes 24/7 so you just made $50 million while you were sleeping.
        Now you owe me $1, I am not free you know :)
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          Jan 9 2014: An example? Christina Paxson, the new president of Brown, is 53.
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          Jan 9 2014: I have to agree that the administration in higher education tends to be older. But having worked as faculty, department head, Dean, etc. allows you to know how things work. Most companies don't start you off in high positions either. MOOC's are struggling somewhat, VERY low completion rate of courses, no personal attention is possible, etc.

          I do use Khan Academy, Google in Education, TED (of course), and many others for my personal development. These are also free and open to anyone - their mission seems genuine and is not just about making money.

          Higher ed does need reform - but Phoenix/Walden/etc. is not the reform we need.
      • Jan 9 2014: OK Fritzie, now name one under 20 where they should be.
        How about Alia Sabur a professor at 19, she would make a great director!
        Or Jacob Barnett on TED started college at 8.
      • Jan 9 2014: Yes David the Khan Academy and others you mentioned are free and excellent sources. Whenever I represented myself in a courtroom I found the online law library at Cornell very useful. I have needed an attorney eight times in my life and six of them I fired and then represented myself, won every case so far. I also know Harvard and Stanford went online very early as did others who could see the light. It is coming and those who delayed will be left in the dark. People simply refuse to pay for information now but they will tolerate a few ads on the side to get the information "free" and they do click on the ads, like robots building cars in the dark, ads work for you 24/7.
        I have worked in the government and sat on the boards before so I am painfully aware of how things work. Words like: red tape, slow, stubborn, inefficient, repetitive, insane, historical, lawyer jargon all come to mind when I think of my experience with boards, were yours different?
        I have company meetings in an empty room, no chairs, tables, coffee... everyone stands and you would be amazed at how much can be accomplished in such a short time.
        Data bases are the future of education and those that are the easiest to get at will be the most successful. Don't blow all your money on peripherals as they are in constant revision. Concentrate on making your data accessible to all devices and let users blow their money on the devices.
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          Jan 9 2014: I agree with your post but I also think most people are too lazy to do the research themselves as you did in your legal cases. We could make everything accessible and only a minority will use it.

          BTW - I love the idea meetings idea, I might try this for short meetings!
      • Jan 9 2014: That's what I thought about Wikipedia and look at it now. You are probably right about the lazy thing, I am a long ways away from normal, some people just call me Abby.... AbbyNormal.
        At first no one wanted to use even word processors or PC's for that matter, do you remember when they only understood basic. People don't want to program computers, they are lazy, they just want to use them but if they are easy to use, they will use them as we see with Apple products. Even I don't want to program anymore and I have been doing it since 1967. I have a cell phone and I don't even know how to retrieve voice mail nor do I care.
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          Jan 9 2014: Wikipedia is a very superficial resource most of the time. Taking 5 minutes to look at a topic there is very different then gathering the original information and formulating your own opinions. Too much information handed to us can make people dependent on someone just using information given to them. I just looked at stem-cell therapy for cancer on wikipedia - two short paragraphs. Just the sources of and the characteristics of stem cells that might be utilized is a topic that can be discussed for years. Someone looking up stem cells because they heard it may help (fill in the blank her - deafness, baldness, multiple sclerosis, etc.), makes people susceptible to quackery and the constant stream of ads for non-approved medical products.

          Sorry for the soap box - back to my point. The vast majority of people might scan a TED talk, a lecture on Khan, etc., but the number of people that are willing to work hard for an on-line education I fear is low.
      • Jan 9 2014: I don't watch any ads, that is why I threw my TV in the trash way back in the 70's. My children where raised without TV if you can imagine that and without violence, none have ever had a spanking. To my amazement one became a TV anchor in Hawaii here:
        And another one who is thirty is following in her fathers footsteps, getting straight A's at the same college where I was on the same Dean's list. She has traveled the world, speaks several languages and owns her own business.
        Personally I love Wikipedia but as you pointed out it is not always accurate which is also the case of college research, books, theories or even talks given by professors or any other people. All information has to be interpreted and scrutinized, that's why we have brains. Hopefully with more and more information available faster, before the government and corporations can get there filthy hands on it, we will become smarter.
        There is no shortage of ducks anywhere I find quacking going on around every corner.

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