Do You Want To Pause Your Instructors, Or Fast-Forward Them?

Another interesting passage from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution column by Maureen Downey:

“MIT professor Anant Agarwal, president of edX, a worldwide online learning initiative of MIT and Harvard, sees promise in the personalization of virtual education.
Agarwal is a pioneer of the massive open online course or MOOC, a free online course in which students earn certificates rather than credits and which relies on the far-flung community of students to help one another.

Many top universities are now experimenting with MOOCs, including Georgia Tech and Emory, to figure out how to blend traditional college classes and virtual classes and expand the reach of their campuses and, ultimately, their brands.

In the first MOOC he taught, Agarwal had 155,000 students from 162 countries enrolled. ‘I would have been up all night answering questions from 155,000 students,’ he said. ‘But we didn’t have to answer student questions because students would ask a question and other students would help them. They would learn by teaching.’

More than 7,000 people finished his challenging MIT circuits and electronics class, including a 15-year-old genius from Mongolia who is now applying to top U.S. colleges.

As a student in India, Agarwal said he spent all his time wishing he could fast-forward his teachers. Once he was a student at Stanford, he wished he could pause them. In online courses, students control when they learn and the rate at which they learn. They can watch lectures and complete their interactive exercises at 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. They can pose questions through online forums and get instant feedback from their peers.

‘Now, [school] is one-size-fits-all,’ said Agarwal. In his MOOC, he found that most students downloaded lessons between midnight and 2 a.m. ‘Why are we driving kids to school at 7 a.m. in a hurry?’” (Read more here.)

I love the idea that in high school Agarwal wanted to fast-forward his professors, and in college he wanted to pause them. I’m sure many students have felt the same way!

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