Is Online Education Still Stuck in 2001: Some still unformed thoughtsPosted: 17 Feb 2011
One of the worst things about being an online MLIS student is the lack of meaningful interaction with professors and students. Let’s face it, Blackboard is still stuck back in 2001. Ideas do not organically flow there. How can they when you have to make two insipid posts per week – 1 original, 1 response please! I am nearing the end of my program and though I am sure I have had more than a few classes with several students, I never really interacted or networked with them.
So, I wonder why more LIS professors have not embraced social media and recognized the great potential for learning that exists there. I am not saying Blackboard is completely obsolete (an upgrade wouldn’t hurt though). However, it is past the time for classes to shed the familiar shell in which they exist. I do not want to take any more online classes that are exactly the same: sign into BB, read the “lecture,” read the articles, make my obligatory posts on the discussion board and occasionally write a paper. How uninspiring! This model of learning belongs back in the physical classroom (actually, it doesn’t really belong there either). Online learning should be a dynamic and self-directed experience. The professors role is to act as guide by curating materials around the web. Basic competencies should be taught and then the students need to be led on their own journey of learning through doing, interacting, trying (maybe failing), and working hard.
I kid you not, this was actually in a textbook (time for these to go too) that I had to read for one of my classes. Thank you, Info 530, for teaching me about the most famous internet: “the Internet.” Glad I am going into debt for this.
I recently met with one of my professors in a private pod she created on Drexel Island in Second Life. The meeting was excellent. We chatted as if I had stopped by her office. She answered my questions and explained a bit more about SL to me. Lectures and meetings in SL with professors and students would greatly increase the ability to interact and network. It provides a space to learn more about each other as well. It pains me that this resource is available (for free!) and it is so rarely used.
Especially in the LIS field, emerging technology is incredibly important. If professors and students are not willing to attempt to use them to learn and expand, we are going to make ourselves obsolete. This must to start in school. I have learned some great things at Drexel, but I can’t help but wonder about how it could have been better. I am convinced that there have been days that I have learned more on Twitter than from an entire class.
EDIT: 11 Apr 2011
Since Michael Stephens re-posted this over on his blog, Tame the Web, I’m seeing a lot of hits here today. I thought I’d put my comment made in response to Micah Vandergrift on 18 Mar 2011 in the body of this post because it addresses some of the issues I’ve been thinking about some more.
I guess the reason that Drexel does not do anything in real time is because they want the online program to be accessible to students anywhere in the world, which I understand and am not unsympathetic towards. However, it has been my experience that many of the professors (certainly not all – I’ve had a few that don’t follow this model) are not truly embracing all the new aspects of technology, Web 2.0 and social media that are available. This bothers me more than it would in another degree because, well, aren’t info professionals claiming to be the ones to lead everyone into the future? If our schooling has still not progressed past the old paradigm slightly altered for a digital environment, then how are we going to teach (much less understand) how education, technology and information will be dealt with in the future?
The old model has much to recommend it. After all, it is how we were all brought up and most of us seem to be doing just fine. I would just like to see more experimentation, more use of ways to learn that take place outside the “classroom” – in this case Blackboard. Elluminate sounds interesting. It reminds me a bit of the Kaplan GRE prep class that I took but I’m only basing that off your explanation.
I am nearing the end of my MLIS and have spent a lot of time reflecting on what I have learned. Perhaps I had expectations that were too high when I entered Drexel and maybe another school would have been a better fit. Maybe a different degree. I’m discussing this in the abstract because I don’t have too many answers yet. All I have is a feeling that things can and should be done differently. The problem is: differently may be something so open-source that it really begins to mean the end of “institutional” education. And I do not think that I have a problem with that.
If my memory is correct, I wrote this blog post before discovering Hack Library School. I like the blog and am really interested to watch it grow over the next few years. I think that it is exactly part of what I mean about how education will change. The discussion there is always interesting. Perhaps soon it can begin to include more expertly curated materials about library-related issues. In fact, maybe someone interested will be able to go there and watch a video by a librarian in California discuss metadata, discuss it with other interested students and then read suggested links there. I’d submit that a student following that path would probably learn just as much (or more) in that method as taking a Metadata class primarily through BB where they read a few restricted articles from the library, make a post or two in the discussion board and then write a paper about it.
Anyway, like I said, these are all just some still unformed thoughts that I’ve been dealing with as I am entering the twilight of my MLIS degree. I hate to seem so negative but I’ve always been better at criticism that actually solving the problems – but I’m working on it and I’m glad to see you are too!