Melissa Burns

Administartor and Manager, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning

This conversation is closed.

Is there any sense to implement online education in the standard educational process?

Nowadays we can see more and more ways to get educations online. Many people use them and pay less attention to the classical education.
There are different online courses like or or tutoring platforms where you can teach students online like and others.
What do you think about them? Is it really possible to create a positive educational environment when you are not in the same place where your students are?
Should we rather avoid online tools of this type or allow them to penetrate traditional system of education?

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    Jan 21 2014: As a recovering victim of US public education I personally believe all Public school teachers should be tried for crimes against humanity.
    So the goal should be to phase out public schools, and not to give them new ways to harm the kids.

    The government working with the private sector, to create a local, national and international online education system.
    With class being interactive, have prerequisites, standards, verifications, and etc.
    So John living in a slum can take the same classes as Jane living on Park Ave.
    All kids have equal access to small town Miss Smith’s 101-math class and Bill Gates’ H801-advance-computer-code class or an English history class from a professor in England. .

    After the online education is set-up, US education can switch to 50% in school, 50% online.
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    Jan 24 2014: As I said below the US education should switch to 50% in school, 50% online system, these past few weeks have given another great reason why? Snow-days would become online-schooling days!

    Imagine the standard is that kids do 5 half days at school per week. Kids with long bus rides could alternate between 2 and 3 full days per week.
    Some 5 half day kids could do early classes, and others afternoon classes or mid-day.
    These would greatly reduce travel time by reducing the number of buses on the road at any one time and the total number of buses needed by the school.
    Reducing the cost that schools spend on busing, and time time for kids. it is a win/win.

    We all learn differently, increasing the options will only help those who don’t learn effectively in the standard classroom setting.
  • Jan 23 2014: Melissa,

    1. I think we can not avoid online tools and they will be used.
    2. Standard education needs to change to integrate the online tools. A good example is flipping.
    3. I feel we have to move from lecturing and teaching the book.
    4. I also think the move to teaching to a test is not very good.
  • Jan 22 2014: In the U.S. when bodies in seats is required to fund the districts online education is impossible. A relative moved to a semi rural are outside of the metro Austin Tx area. The commute and low quality of education in the area forced his family to put their two sons into an online curriculum. It seems to be providing dividends in better time management, more effective understanding of the laptop tool they use for broader research, generally more confident young adults and better adjusted personalities. More focused and mature young men. Their online education is effective given their rural environment.
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    Jan 21 2014: AN IDEA TO IMPROVE EDUCATION: The government collects education money/taxes and then, grants the money to private educational institutions or companies that can prove they could provide the best curriculum and instruction to students - similar to what NASA, DARPA, the US Military, and other government agencies are doing when they have projects or jobs that require the efficient management of money and resources and the best solutions to solve problems.

    In some ways this is already being done when a charter school is set-up to replace a dysfunctional public school. The only problem is that so many charter schools have proven to be no better than the schools they have replaced.

    There must be a better way. One way is to adopt what the X-Prize is doing (The X-Prize uses ingenious ways to encourage healthy competition, promote creativity and innovation, maximize use of resources, and minimize waste and abuse). With this approach, we may end up having the best school adminitrators manage our schools and the best teachers teach our children.

    Private enterprises, in general, have proven to be efficient in managing limited resources and hiring, training, and maintaining qualified personnel to meet their objectives and accomplish their goals.
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    Jan 21 2014: In my opinion, we'd allow online tools to penetrate the traditional system. The power of online tools may be an important help, and about education, all aids are welcome.
    Yours is a very Interesting topic, education always is.
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    Jan 20 2014: it's vital that students are taught the importance of checking multiple sources - which is a powerful research skill to learn but even more important considering the enormous amounts of tripe and opinion out there online.

    utilising technology to overcome the logistical issues in modern schools is ideally where the focus should be but all too often i have seen technology used as toys, games or as a shortcut bypassing skill acquisition for the sake of convenience.

    the potential is huge but at the moment, everyone still seems somewhat star-struck by digital tools and the internet.
  • Jan 19 2014: I send an idea to be reviewed about special toll roads with electric coils by side, But no Information so far

    And I put in question session why it was not posted but that was also blocked

    Can I know why no comment about the Idea I submitted, Either it is not workable etc, or why it cannot be posted, It was told 24 hours I could get a reply But so far 3 day nothing happens
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      Jan 19 2014: Perhaps you are seeking answers to your question in the wrong place. For example, this is a thread on online education, so your post here will not be seen by any TED Administrator. Your question needs to go to staff who review which threads to post and which not.

      You can pose administrative questions about your particular proposed thread or about the process and timeline here: Or you can respond to the emails the TED Conversations staff sent to you. Or you can email to
  • Jan 19 2014: Hi Melissa,that's very good to have you offered the topic about education online.From my experience,internet is really very good platform for people to enhance ourselves,but I have to say:it depends.Because we do know our growing not just the proliferation of information,but more important how oursevles learn to know to use them to enlighten us in our lives.So people individuala are still the most important than anything else.

    But it doesn't mean I want to deny internet's advantages,for example:TED is a very good example to help me growing,but I don't think my daughter so far she would like to join in TED Learning.For young children they have their own growing period, keep them growing,the question is:how we consider children's real needs to help them using internet to boost them growing?

    Being an Information Technology middle school teacher,I do worry about that,I do think it can be as severe as climate change to attracte our attention to do lots of things about it.It is the whole world thing,not any person,group,community,country I deem.
  • Jan 19 2014: What we have now produces perfect military and corporate "slaves" .... so the real question is do we want more of them? Or should we maybe aim a little higher as we continue to slip behind many other countries in the education field. Maybe we should show people how to think, instead of what to think?
  • Jan 19 2014: Absolutely there is a need. I am currently in collage and I have been putthrough the changes in the last 15 years and I have seen schools slowly become more and more dependent on the internat and online schoolshelp expand the education base many students get, not tomeantiona way to catch up or an alternite version of a class if the classroom version does not work out for them. We might as well ask if math classes need calculators today.
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    Jan 18 2014: This question is debated every day on every campus. 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.People will get out of education what they put into it. Unfortunately I think a lot of people go to college with no real plan and just choose an easy degree path. I can’t blame their advisors for this, maybe their parents a little, but until you know what you want out of college why go and rack up debt?
  • Jan 18 2014: This is of course already being done on quite a large scale. Typically MOOCS appears to be the new way forward in such approaches. Note however that education is a social process requiring true human interaction especially for the young. Ken Robinson is someone who knows what the educational process is all about. The well known trend toward a mechanisation of the educational process in many countries is an attempt to make the process exactly that, mechanical and simple to implement, a uniform approach that makes it cheaper for the government and the attitudes of the individual ministers. Its much easier to force everyone into the same mold and thereby have to think less about the problem. Online approaches are a useful tool to aid the process of education but that is all they are. In addition, even as an adult the student requires direct contact when asking questions about a subject, tutorials are essential.
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    Jan 18 2014: Hello Ms. Burns. Since you are holding a responsible position in one of the most reputable educational institutions in the world, I believe you already know the answer to your question.

    Online education, whether one believes in its merits or not, is already part of modern education. Technology and innovation will only accelerate its acceptance. Unfortunately, as mentioned by some of our fellow contributors to this forum, many online degrees are as or more expensive than state universities. Many responsible parents and students are being EXPLOITED. While there are still many courses that are more suitable to traditional classroom setting, there are many courses that are suitable to online setting.The rapid increases in tuition fees, especially in higher education, will only make online education more popular while traditional education will, ultimately, become the domain of upper middle and rich people.

    Currently, college education offered by our so called "good" universities and colleges cost about $50,000.00 per year. At the rate it is increasing, in about twenty years, college cost will be about $100,000.00 per year, while the income of most families has been stagnant and will remain to be so in the coming years. The more responsible members of our society chose to get good college education. They are the future problem-solvers of the world. But what is going on? They are being strangled to death because their college loans are up to their eyeballs. This situation is just RIDICULOUS ... it's not right ... this cannot go on. It is NOT SUSTAINABLE!

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      Jan 18 2014: In the US at least, many of the online degrees are MUCH more expensive then State Universities

      Example - Tuition and fees at Phoenix - I ran their tuition calculator - 53,000 for a BS in Education at my local Phoenix campus. My State University - 30,215 tuition and fees for the same degree.
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      Jan 18 2014: And...

      The graduation rate of the Phoenix type institutions is less than 10%. I'm not bashing Phoenix and Walden, etc.. just stating their graduation rate is lower then traditional colleges.
  • Jan 18 2014: Your question appears to be addressed to teachers, and I am not a teacher so my response should be qualified by that understanding.

    My answer to the stated question is 'Yes, there is sense and value to on-line education in the standard education process'. On-line programs are a new and evolving tool for teachers to use and adapt to the program they deliver students.

    I think they are a very powerful way to deliver more choices to students, enable students to do independent work, and tailor the program delivered to students to needs of the student.

    All it takes is one counter-example to show that it is possible to create a positive educational environment remotely. Perhaps one example might be when students live so remotely from school that transporting to where the teacher is located costs more in terms of a child's sleep and family budget than should reasonably be demanded.

    Avoiding on-line tools is the same approach used by the ostrich to hide from danger by sticking his head in a hole.

    I do not believe that on-line tools are a replacement for teachers. Teachers always have, and always will provide the right balance of learning for students, which includes more than just academic instruction. The education of a child should be a partnership between parents and teachers to see the children have what they need to survive and thrive as adults. Teachers are the adults with the best over-view of how a child is progressing in academic development into adult. The inputs used for this evaluation are more than what a computer based program can deliver.

    I would rather see teachers recommend on-line programs that complimented classroom study than have parents or students pick programs.

    By the way, another popular program is the Khan Academy program.
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    Jan 17 2014: Are you asking whether online offerings should be part of a portfolio of resources for the learner, or whether they could replace conventional schooling without a reduction in service even for those who now have access to good brick and mortar schools?

    Are you asking about a specific age group? For example, are you asking whether small children would be better off hearing stories read only online rather than also by their parents and grandparents?

    I think online education can create a positive learning environment but not as rich a learning environment as can be provided in a setting in which competent teachers and learners are face to face. I say this having learned and taught both ways.
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      Jan 18 2014: I try to understand what losses we get when online offerings are more and more becoming a part of our life and how to combat them.
      And whether teachers should really start teaching online
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        Jan 18 2014: I see great value in online offerings as a supplement. Sometimes a student can benefit from taking a course that is not available at his school or in his vicinity. For example, there are kids who move through a math sequence quickly and "top out" what is offered at their school. On the school's part, there may not be enough students who want, say, AP Economics for the school to offer it, and it is useful to the student to be able to find that offering online.

        An adult continuing learner may need the flexibility of online coursework, because of where he lives, his family obligations, or his work schedule. Teaching in such programs provides a valuable service in these cases.

        I think the differences that people point out regularly are easy to understand by example. We would probably all rather interact with those we care about in person rather than only on Skype or through text. There is an integration of schooling and life that happens in a school setting within the school community, an intensity of contact across multiple dimensions of human experience, that you miss if you delete some of those opportunities.

        While I have appreciated the availability of online offerings as a supplement for myself and my children, I fully appreciate the greater value and impact of the more personal, face-to-face learning opportunities.

        Another point is that there is a difference between normal online learning and a MOOC. There is an entirely different level of attention to student needs and interests by an expert staff in conventional online learning than in a setting in which there is a tiny staff and hundreds of thousands of students.

        Have you taught and learned in both formats yourself?