Are internet-based Courses (iCourses) the Wave of the Future? by Bongs Lainjo
by Bongs Lainjo
Are iCourses the Wave of the Future?
The evolution of learning and our education processes and media have been quite slow, conservative and repetitive. Over the last five to six decades, the learning process and media have slowly and steadily moved from abacus, to slide rules, to black boards and chalk, to “etch-a-sketch” products, to calculators to overhead projectors, to slides, to videos, and to computers (mainframes, mini, desktops, laptops, tablets etc). The last one was introduced primarily during the last three to four decades. While some of these dynamics have occurred in tandem, some have been sequential.
It remains quite interesting to note that during the introduction of all these tools, the reception, euphoria and motivation to learn by every target group was quite strong. With time, more improved discoveries started a replacement dynamic that abandoned some of these tools in preference to others. The main challenge that came with these changes varied from the inability of students to master the basics, to sloppy applications of some. For example, the advent of calculators created a level of dependence among some students that ultimately resulted to misuse. A case in point, when students are asked why dividing any number by zero using a calculator produces an “error” message, many are unable to explain why. And of course the answer is based on the fundamental understanding of basic functions.
During the last decade, learning as we know it is gradually migrated in some cases from the class room to the internet. And when one looks at the benefits, the outcomes are astounding. These include simultaneous easy access to course material by students at the global level, ability to enrol a significantly high number of students, cost effectiveness etc.
In the US, there are currently a number of on-line-learning platforms such as OpenCourseWare at MIT, edX, Coursera, Udacity etc. Some of them offer free online courses while others change an enrollment fee. And if the current registration and participation rates are any indication, the evolution is most likely going to be exponential. For example, according to MIT, when it introduced its MITx on-line training schedule last year, 150,000 candidates from 60 countries signed up for its first Circuit and Electronic course. The motivation and demand on teaching assistants was so overwhelming that these monitors were requested to withdraw and let students work on a reciprocal basis helping each other with different needs. It turned out that this approach was also a method that was approved by these students. Was this a fluke? By no means, the convenience and in some cases, the availability of free internet-based courses was a significant driving force.
While the jury is still out, there is a strong likelihood that this internet learning momentum will only increase as technology improves. And what happens to our traditional learning system as we know it? This will most likely be answered by the ubiquitous availability and frequency of iCourses. There is also the answered question of accreditation. How many of these courses will be recognized by established and accredited institutions remains unknown. But for now, the floodgates are open and our education system has continued its slow but steady journey to our homes while continue to hold our breaths.