Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Online Education

“Does anyone here know what MOOC means?”  This question, posed by Dr. Krishna Aravamudham of the American Dental Association as part of her presentation on the Dental Quality Alliance to the American Association of Dental Consultants, prompted me to raise my hand.

“What is it?” she said.  “It has to do with online education.” I answered.

There may have been more in the room who know the acronym for Massive Open Online Courses, but I was in the second row and have been accused of usually being the first to have a question after any presentation I hear.  In this case I was knowledgeable because I wrote a Post on Coursera and Daphne Koller after viewing a TED presentation on YouTube two years ago.  That 20-minute clip made me an evangelist.  In preparation for today’s Post, I watched a longer 55-minute she made at Columbia, where she gave startling figures about the growth of MOOCs and what we have learned about online education. You should have links to both presentations in this Post.

My two years of evangelism have convinced me that the only long-term solution to the terrible student debt crisis that we have in this country will require enhanced online learning, where as Dr. Koller says, we can either provide a similar level of education to greatly increased numbers at a much lower cost, or an advanced level of education to greatly increased numbers at a similar cost.  At every dental meeting I attend, recognition of the effect $250,000 in debt is making on graduating dentists’ career choices overwhelms any other topic.

I have a granddaughter, with great grades from a highly-ranked high school and very good SAT scores who will graduate soon.  She has applied to several colleges. .  She also is talented in the arts and has performed on several highly recognized venues.  She eventually made a decision to live at home and attend a local (also highly ranked) Community College.  She is willing to sacrifice some of the socialization of college life for the financial security of affordability.

I have a grandson, who will be in his high school senior year this fall.  He is uncertain of what he will do when he graduates, but money is bound to be a factor in his decision.  Student debt is current news.  President Obama is calling for a reduction of the interest rate on student debt.  Universities have vowed to hold the line on tuition costs.  Coursera provides more than 300 courses and services at least 3.2 million students for no fee in 231 countries.  Starbucks recently offered free college applicable courses for employees as long as they work at Starbucks with no payback”, and Arizona State University, one of the schools my granddaughter was accepted to, offers more than 70 degree programs online for about $500/credit hour with no room and board or book fees.

Listening to Dr. Koller’s longer presentation today, I was struck by the unexpected advantages to online education, if it is structured correctly:  The socialization issue is provided by the Social Networking aspect of others taking the same course as one who is working on the same lesson at the same time.  The course builds in Peer Evaluation as part of the process, even when questions are subjective. , which enlightens students to see there are multiple approaches to problem solving. Testing is designed to meet levels of Mastery beyond what can be achieved in a classroom environment.  There is expectation that, as the mix between talent and desire begins to direct who and why someone initiates a course, Mastery levels will approach the Individual level of private tutors.

My hope is that by the time my grandson graduates, a room, similarly filled with professional people as the AADC Conference, will have 100% knowing alternatives to the educational model they experienced.

NPR recently ran a series on Heroin addiction in the United States.  Perhaps surprisingly that was the subject of another dental meeting I recently attended.  In my next Post I will explain that connection.  I hope that you will join me.

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