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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rethinking what an education is all about

     The pandemic has caused us to re-think many of our traditional assumptions.  We may have to recognize that the paradigms which have long controlled our lives are short-sighted.   How learning takes place is one of those areas to be re-examined.   Online learning has forced schools to re-think how they can provide a meaningful education blending the traditional classroom with newer enhanced opportunities to learn.  Unfortunately, I feel that most schools will still hold the classroom instruction as the key part of their educational experience rather than only a supplemental component.  The passive nature of most classroom instruction, especially in large lecture halls, should be relegated to a past educational reality.
      The new educational model takes advantage of new educational tools to make learning a more experiential.  Instructors in this model become more mentors than instructors.  Instructors use more of the Socratic Method of teaching.  In a nutshell, this Method believes the answers to questions ly within the student and not within the teacher.  The student learning comes from a designed learning experience supplemented with teacher/mentor sessions using the Socratic Method.  This change will require teacher training to be radically modified.
      I have had experience with this method of learning when I was in college.  I often took extra credits in a semester to quickly get my required courses out of the way to then have an opportunity to take advantage of independent study and independent research which was the core of what I wanted from a learning experience.  These credits allowed me to have one on one interaction with professors that were more meaningful for both of us than the traditional classroom experience of a 20 to 1 ratio of students to teacher.
       I know that skeptics will say that this model will not work for all students and that many students are not capable of learning in this less structured manner.  The wrong assumption in this argument is that this learning style is "less structured."  To work well it has to be as effectively structured as the more traditional classroom.  My argument would be that most of us learn more experientially than we do didactically in a lecture model.
       If there is a silver lining to this pandemic I would hope that it would cause us to re-examine the paradigms that will help us take advantage of new ways to improve our lives and well-being.  Those ways are out there if we are open to the changes we can make.

     I wonder if students and their families will be willing to pay full price for an education taken online from home.

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