The Future of Online Education

Just a few quick thoughts on The Student Becomes the Teacher:

  • “MOOCs [massive open online courses] today are primarily serving the education haves, not disadvantaged learners.”

    This is true… but this has always been true. It was the rich and successful who first got cars… got electricity… got mobile phones… got computers. Then the magic of capitalism did its work, and everyone got their hands on it – at a reasonable price.

  • “Their biggest question: How did Myanganbayar master the material in the MOOC, based on a sophomore-level MIT course on circuits and electronics, without having taken the prerequisites that cover concepts such as differential equations? There was nothing dumbed-down about the circuits course, known in MIT’s cryptic course catalog as 6.002x, but Myanganbayar was one of only 340 to ace it out of about 150,000 registered students.

    The edX staff learned that Myanganbayar spent about a quarter of the time he invested in the class scouring the Web for supplementary material, essentially using free websites to teach himself the high-level math he needed.”

    There’s a lot of free stuff out there, and you can get an excellent education, if you have the computer, a high-speed connection, the time, and the motivation.

    So, every Christian parent should – right after pulling their kids out of the public (and most Christian) schools and started their homeschooling courses – should encourage their kids to find the material they need online. Without being distracted by chat, games, porn, etc.

  • “Myanganbayar isn’t your typical online student, as I learned when I sat down with him in his dormitory common room earlier this year. He avoids activities that he considers wastes of time. “I don’t like to read literature books because they seem useless,” he says, explaining why he has avoided Harry Potter and other distractions. Wearing shorts and an “I [heart] MIT” T-shirt, he said that he took the MIT MOOC not because it was from a famous college, but because the intro video for it promised that it would teach him to understand how iPhones work. He was fascinated.”

    Myanganbayar may not be a believer, but his attitude to education is worthy of a dedicated follower of Christ. ‘Get what you need, master the concepts, and put it to work!’

  • Myanganbayar breezed through the MOOC without doing any of the readings. He skipped them in part because he was too busy, but also because the material was in English, and he describes his language skills then as “terrible.” And to save time, he says he watched two video lectures at the same time, simultaneously reading the subtitles on one of them while listening to the audio from the other. He admits that “sounds pretty strange,” which is tough to contest, though many other MOOC students admit to watching lectures at double-speed.


    “He had plenty of suggestions,” says Ilana Schoenfeld, an education content manager at the program. One point he stressed was the need for better ways for students to teach one another, like he did with his homemade lecture videos, and discuss course content. “He was very into the community piece of it,” she added.

    Not only did he get the grades without the readings, he also produced videos in Mongolian for his fellow citizens and students. I like this attitude!

This, online education, is part of the path we need to use to get to our goals – first, to fill the world with righteousness, making all nations disciples of Christ; then (my personal hope) find a way to get to the stars!


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