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I hope they succeed and I fully support their efforts. Distance learning programs will never be a substitute for genuine classroom-based interaction, and under no circumstances should they ever be used to replace skilled teachers.

And even if that weren't the case, unions have every right to fight for the interests of workers, and should do so at every available opportunity.




I think 'never' is way too strong a statement. As mentioned in other comments 100+ student lectures are pretty much as impersonal, the only difference is you can rewind an online lecture, and usually have it taught by one of the best in the field.

Additionally I've supplemented poor university teachers with excellent online classes to much success. Personally I think the future of education should be something like students taking Stanford's ai class with local teachers acting as TAs and adding a few supplements + classroom interaction. You read Norvig's textbook, why not have him teach the material if you can?

Having taken far more than my fair share of classes, my experience is that, aside from project heavy courses, only upper level grad classes are really something you couldn't replace with a mass-audience, online course. And these are just training wheels for researching closely with a professor or research team anyway.

For lower to mid level undergraduate courses I actually feel that online classes (given that they are top tier classes) are better. A good teacher is much, much more important in earlier learning than later (a smart grad student should have no difficultly learning advanced material even with an awful teacher)


Personally I think the future of education should be something like students taking Stanford's ai class with local teachers acting as TAs and adding a few supplements + classroom interaction.

I like that model, especially since you can break geographical boundaries and get the best instructors into places where it would be impractical to get them otherwise (e.g. the remote village in a developing country). You can also break time boundaries, by taking classes when they suit you, instead of when they're offered, and it allows future classes to learn from teachers who may no longer be living. It is impossible to take a physics course taught by Albert Einstein or a business class taught by Steve Jobs, but with new methods of education, this would be possible.


"Having taken far more than my fair share of classes, my experience is that, aside from project heavy courses, only upper level grad classes are really something you couldn't replace with a mass-audience, online course." I wholeheartedly agree.

Sure, they have the right to protest and ban online courses...but let's be realistic, this is in no way protective of students. This is 100% a "save our own ass" initiative. Call it what it is. Anyone that remembers their first two/three years of college can attest to the utter nonsense that is classroom lecturing.


Weird. Every single learning program I have been a part of that helped me towards my current profession was long-distance... I taught myself how to program on the Internet and turned it into a career that pays for every single aspect of my life. Why can't that work at a university? You can learn anything from anywhere, why let physical boundaries limit you. I learned about half I know from distance (books, web): opera, classical music, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, et cetera. I'm not really sure what you mean, and can't relate to your viewpoint.

Relatedly, I honestly don't understand how people fetishize educational institutions but it seems very common. Perhaps I am a bit more sensitive than others, never having been to a 4 year university, but I always thought it was all about learning. When did preserving the institutions of education become more important than actual education?

~ Immensely Prideful Autodidact


Most students seem to benefit from having an expert on hand to answer their questions and evaluate their work.


> Distance learning programs will never be a substitute for genuine classroom-based interaction, and under no circumstances should they ever be used to replace skilled teachers.

I have found that distance learning is great. I have watched lectures on the internet, and found the convenience of watching when I want and being able to rewind are some advantages over classroom-based learning.

While it may still be difficult to have questions answered as quickly as they can be answered in a classroom, I disagree that it "will never be a substitute for genuine classroom-based interaction," as technology will hopefully be able to address the current shortcomings.

Is your view based on a negative experience you had with online learning?


The problem is that most teachers are not particularly skilled. A lot of curricula are not that good.

So, really the question is something like "are you one of the best 1000 teachers in North America?"

If not, you're gone in 10 years, and that's a good thing (for students).

EDIT> I've been thinking about this a lot recently. It's a huge problem for society. Software is leverage. We don't need as many people working, but we still structure our society so that people need to work. More and more technology means that if you're not one of the best in your field you don't matter. So, how do you eat?


> And even if that weren't the case, unions have every right to fight for the interests of workers, and should do so at every available opportunity.

Doing so may come at the expense of students. For example, while it may be in the best interest of workers to prevent online learning, there are benefits to students from online learning.

Additionally, there are instances where actions that are seemingly in the workers' best short-term interest are not in their best long-term interest. For example, the prevention of online learning at a school may benefit workers in the short-term, but in the long-term may drive students to other schools that offer online learning.


Under no circumstances? I think an online entrepreneurship class taught by Paul Graham would certainly be as good if not better than any real life offering the University of California has to offer.




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