By: Rachel Choi
As Internet continues to take on more diverse roles in modern society, it impacts many fields, including education. Virtual education has come a long way from its beginnings as a way of using linked computer terminals to allow university students to access remote resources such as video or audio lectures. Now, students all over the world can use the Internet to access materials ranging from an animation of a cell to a video lecture about economics.
At MSJ, the student response to virtual education has generally been favorable. “It is an easy alternative to hiring a tutor,” said Junior Rachel Chang. Teachers have also expressed positive opinions on the topic. “I think students are taking responsibility more and more for their own learning,” said Biology Teacher Kerrie Ware.
Online Learning Today
Created by MIT graduate Salman Khan in 2006,KhanAcademyis a nonprofit organization that seeks to change education by “providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” The website has over 3000 videos on topics from biology to finance. These videos attract up to 3.5 million viewers per month. The website also offers summaries of student performance data that can be utilized to spot areas that need improvement.
Khan Academy also recently conducted a national study that implementsKhanAcademyas a supplement in the classroom. One teacher participating in this study commented that though computers will never replace teachers, the videos are beneficial because they offer personal feedback to each student. At MSJ, Physics Teacher Jack Fendell expressed a similar opinion. “I think virtual courses are good for some people who can learn independently,” said Fendell, “but the role of a teacher is to help guide a student through the process.”
MIT OpenCourseWare is a project launched in 2003 that aims to put all materials from MIT’s undergraduate and graduate classes online, so that anyone can access them. Approximately 2000 courses are available, though the quality of the materials ranges from a list of discussion topics to lecture notes and homework problems with solutions. Some courses, such as Linear Algebra, are even available in a format intended to facilitate independent learning.
Different from sites like MIT OpenCourseWare andKhanAcademy, OpenStudy is a website that instead aspires to create a worldwide study group online. With the mantra of “learners helping learners,” Openstudy provides a way for students to help each other, and even creates a support group for students. One user fromGhanacommented, “You guys gave me confidence for my exams, thank you OpenStudy.”
Virtual education continues to become more advanced and versatile as technology improves. However, though the technology has changed from linked computer terminals to Youtube videos, the mission of virtual education is still to provide access to education to more people in the world, working toward the greater goal of a more connected and informed body of world citizens.