Online education, and convergent and divergent fields of study


[My comment at http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/07/19/new-study-online-classes-just-as-good/#comment-96332; for the article “New Study: Online Classes Just as Good”]
Van Piercy says:

Depends on the course. Convergent disciplines can manage well with the course in a can: I teach tech writing sometimes and find that online is superb for that sort of format focused, rule based information. There really isn’t a lot to talk about that isn’t in the textbook: This is the form of a proposal; these are the main rules of usage that are often breached and which should be learned. Teaching a literature course is a different matter, partly because there is so much that can be known and partly because there are different ways to teach the course, different texts one can read, different approaches to the texts, to the canon, to interpretation, to discussion. Unless one teaches just the Cliffs Notes version of the course and its texts (to keep things simple and multiple choice friendly), or some mandated list of texts and themes (mandated by the state? by a college administration? by a department chair? by a department?)–at which point what exactly are we teaching students about learning? That there is just one way to learn and one set of facts to learn even in the most informationally rich and divergent of disciplines? I can imagine reasons, though not many acceptable ones, for controlling learning that way, especially in economically marginal disciplines like philosophy, art, literature, history.

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