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Friday, November 21, 2014

Online vs face-to-face learning: why can’t we have both?

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Dr Christopher Scanlo, Academic Director, Learning Focus Area Hub at La Trobe University writes, "Rather than devoting more time and effort wrestling with the debate between face-to-face and technology, our efforts would be better spent exploring the best practices of education using all the tools at our disposal."

People argue over whether learning should take place online or face-to-face, but does it have to be one or the other? 
Photo: The Conversation AU 

Ever since the invention of the printed word, academics have been arguing about the proper place of technology in teaching.

On one side are those who I’ll call the traditionalists who insist on the primacy of face-to-face and barely tolerate online delivery. For the traditionalists, students need, as one colleague put it, to be exposed to the “rhetorical performance of the lecture”. For them, students learn a great deal from simply watching academics nut through problems.

While they may decry passive lectures, their own teaching, they insist, is a highly interactive affair.

They adopt a Socratic approach in which they engage students in a rich dialogue. While technologies such as the web have a place in teaching, it is a secondary one, limited for broadcasting announcements and pasting up subject learning guides.

On the other side, are the technologists. The technologists would happily do away with lectures — or give face-to-face teaching the flick entirely. New technologies provide tools for reaching into students’ lives. Students can learn when and where they want. And now that students are getting online delivery at high school, it’s time that universities caught up.

While early versions of online teaching were often cheap and nasty, its present day champions argue that things have gotten a lot better. Learning analytics, for example, provide new ways to track students’ progress and comprehension throughout a subject, permitting more targeted, customised lectures.

As an Associate Dean, I’ve heard passionate defenders of both sides — and I have some sympathy for both.
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Related link 
Dr Christopher Scanlon, Associate Dean (Academic)

Source: The Conversation AU