[LINK] Two views on online Learning

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Aug 9 15:40:59 AEST 2010

Bill Gates: Forget university, the web is the future for education
Aug. 7, 2010 (7:54 am)
By: Matthew Humphries

Bill Gates attended the Technonomy conference earlier this week, and had 
quite a bold statement to make about the future of education. He 
believes the web is where people will be learning in five years from 
now, not colleges and university

During his chat he said:

Five years from now on the web for free
you’ll be able to find the best lectures in
the world. It will be better than any
single university


However there is a big difference between having access to "the best 
lectures in the world." and getting a good education - see below.

And let's not forget that Bill Gates knows more about business than 
software engineering and even less about education.

Rushing Too Fast to Online Learning? Outcomes of Internet Versus 
Face-to-Face Instruction
Aug. 8, 2010

A combination of fiscal constraints and improvements in technology has 
led to an increased reliance on online classes of all types -- many of 
which use Internet versions of traditional, live lectures. Now a new 
study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) raises 
questions about that fast-growing trend in higher education.

"Online instruction may be more economical to deliver than live 
instruction, but there is no free lunch," said David Figlio, Orrington 
Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University 
and primary author of the NBER working paper released this month. 
"Simply putting traditional courses online could have negative 
consequences, especially for lower-performing and language minority 

The rush to online education may come at a greater cost than educators 
suspect, according to Figlio and study co-authors Mark Rush and Lu Yin 
of the University of Florida. The release last summer of a report by the 
U.S. Department of Education added to the growing trend.

"Our findings suggest that universities interested in exploiting 
economic efficiencies should carefully consider whether they want to put 
traditional lecture classes online," said Figlio. "Our study for the 
first time presents experimental evidence about the relative efficacy of 
face-to-face versus recorded traditional lectures.

"We didn't test whether Internet courses are good or bad per se," said 
Figlio, who teaches in Northwestern's School of Education and Social 
Policy and is a faculty fellow at its Institute for Policy Research. 
"But we did find modest evidence that live-only instruction results in 
higher learning outcomes than Internet instruction."

The study, "Is it Live or is it Internet? Experimental Estimates of the 
Effects of Online Instruction on Student Learning," is by no means 
definitive, according to Figlio. It does, however, provide the first 
"apples-to-apples" comparison of live versus online delivery of 
traditional classes.

The study's strongest findings in favor of live instruction were for 
relatively low achieving students, male students and Hispanic students. 
While they may be better served by face-to-face education delivery, 
often those are the students who are most likely to receive online 

"At the least, our findings indicate that much more experimentation is 
necessary before one can credibly declare that online education is peer 
to traditional live classroom instruction, let alone superior to live 
instruction," the authors write.

The study made use of data from an experiment conducted in a Principles 
of Microeconomics class taught at a large, selective doctorate-granting 

Typically, students register for a "live" section of the microeconomics 
class in which they can watch the lecture in a room with 190 seats or 
they can register for an online section in which they watch the lecture 
online. Because 1,600 or more students typically participate in the 
class taught by a single instructor, most students register for an 
online section.

Prior to the Spring 2007 semester, the instructor of the class offered 
students the opportunity to participate in the experiment. Of nearly 
1,600 registered students, 327 volunteered to take part and, in return, 
were given a half letter boost in their grade at the end of the semester.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to watching the lecture live or to 
watching the lecture online. Measures were taken to ensure that 
instruction delivery was made only in the manner in which students were 
randomly assigned.

"Until further studies on the effectiveness of online learning versus 
in-class learning are necessary, universities would be wise to recognize 
that all Internet courses are not created equally," Figlio said. That, 
he added, was the salient point of last year's U.S. Department of 
Education report.



Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
email:	 brd at iimetro.com.au
website: www.drbrd.com

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