The Problem with Online Education

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The problem with online education, Matt Mireles says, is that it solves a smaller problem than it creates:

Namely, it solves the problem created by a one-size-fits-all course structure that come from the brick-and-mortar school system: curriculums are not tailored to the individual and thus produce a sub-optimal learning experience.

What it eliminates (as far as I can tell) is the a) intimate social structure and bonds that come from being forced into a classroom for several hours a week, b) rigor and discipline of being forced to get shit done on a fixed schedule, and c) peer pressure that drives much of the psychology of academic achievement.


  1. Becky says:

    As someone who has taken both online and in person classes, I would think a combination class where a portion is done online with periodic classroom attendence seems like a better idea than one or the other.

    Periodic attendence would allow the social aspect and give better feedback from instructors. It would also keep students honest about doing their own work to come in periodically and take tests, especially.

  2. Aretae says:

    I comment at my place, because it’s too long for a comment. Great find.

  3. Mala Lex says:

    FWIW, among homeschoolers a big concern is missing out on socialization from schooling. It seems to me that online ed (at least for children) takes out the last reason to send them to formal schools at all.

  4. Isegoria says:

    I agree that a mixture of in-person and on-line makes sense. The computer is perfect for drilling and reinforcing skills, a video podcast is in many ways superior to a lecture, and web-based discussions have at least a few advantages over classroom-based discussions — but meeting face to face, at least occasionally, provides the three factors Mireles mentions: socialization, discipline, and peer pressure.

    I also agree with Aretae that the vast majority of work in a modern degree program is make-work, and replicating it on-line may not be worth the trouble.

    I’m a bit confused by the notion that on-line classes would provide socialization and obviate the need to send kids off to brick-and-mortar institutions. I may not like the kind of socialization they receive at modern public high schools, but it’s something more than, say, Facebook alone can provide.

  5. Nick says:

    On the subject of online education, it may be worthwhile to check out PBS/Frontline’s upcoming documentary on for-profit universities. It airs next Tuesday at 9pm on PBS. Details here.

Leave a Reply