e-learning better or worse than classroom learning?

According to a study done by Higher Education Strategy Associates, as reported in the National Post, students in Canadian universtities are luke-warm in their attitudes towards e-learning. On the other hand, a study done by the US Department of Education found that e-learning outcomes exceeded classroom outcomes.

Those with the patience to do so, can check out both reports by clicking on the links above. I found the Canadian study confusing and unsatisfying. It seems to show that students who are already paying big bucks to go to university, prefer to attend class rather than access information via the Internet. Not surprising.

On the other hand, video, audio recordings and live streaming of lectures were at the bottom of the kind of digital information that was available. I don’t know where transcripts stood. These seem to me to be the most obvious things to make available online.

Instead the universities seem to offer either admin and syllabus details, notes, discussion boards,?? test answers, tests and quizzes and the like online. These are often, apparently, poorly designed and don’t work well.

The survey implies that students are less satisfied with courses that include online resources. If video, audio recordings and transcripts, and live streaming of courses are offered at a university, students enrolled in these courses at the university, can just choose to use them or not use them.It cannot be a negative.

However, a much larger number of people, beyond those students who are mostly subsidized by the tax-payer, would be able to access these educational resources, if they wre offered online. So online learning enables us to reduce the bloated cost of education. And at least according to the US Dept of Education, online learning is quite effective, more effective than classroom learning.

Maybe the Canadian study should have focused on learning outcomes comparing those who use online resources and those who attend class. Maybe the study should have looked at how effectively the universities are using online resources. Maybe the confusing data about “satisfaction levels” of students do not really tell us much.


Sweden: Immigrant language-learning bonus flops

A program to give bonuses to immigrants who work harder at their Swedish learning was deemed a failure according to a recent newspaper report. The article points out that only 20% of those eligible for the bonuses actually put in the effort necessary to cash in.

Why is this a failure? The fact that 20% of learners were motivated to work harder is a great success. The fact that the government saved 80% of their budget is a great success. The normal pattern in immigrant language learning is for governments to pay for an ineffective language teaching infrastructure, focused on classrooms, where a much smaller percentage than 20% achieve any meaningful improvement in their language skills.

I have always said that we should eliminate government sponsored language classes for immigrants. This should be replaced with healthy bonuses for those who learn. The immigrants should be allowed to find their own ways to learn. I believe we would see better results with a much lower expenditure of government money. The same can be said for most adult language learning programs, including language learning for corporate or government employees.

Edit: Note that I just changed the link to the original article. Check out all the comments.