Online Learning: Is the Instructor or the Student the Teacher?

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It’s important to ask questions like this about online education. Why? Because as the ways to educate evolve through technology, the division between the two roles becomes less defined. Let’s explore two trending education pathways that go beyond the classroom model.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

A MOOC puts a continuing education lesson onto the Internet and lets any student learn at any speed. And it can include countless students. The confusion begins when students come back with adjustments, innovations, and new end results. They are now online instructors teaching to other students, who can then return and do the same thing. Every participant can be both an online student and an online instructor. There is a perfect example of this duality during a TED Talk by Shimon Schocken. An idea was presented, but the online students grew the idea past its initial goal and expanded on the idea of distance learning. Give it a look and see how it blurs the line between student and instructor.

One to Anyone

An expert in any topic can choose to provide online education with little more than a computer, camera, and the Internet. Post your online lesson, and then see who wants to learn. Guitar is a good example. If you’re good, you make the demand for teachers shrink because all students can simply come to you. At the same time, you can help a new flock of potential online instructors grow as they learn from your teachings. Added innovation, better skills, and more free time could quickly displace the original instructor. The student now leads the lesson until a better one comes along and replaces him or her. And the better the education becomes, the quicker the turnover could occur. One replacing the other until everyone has learned and taught online.

It’s amazing what technology can do to education, and the two paths above are only examples of countless ways online learning will evolve. However, you do need two things to keep it going – those who want to share their knowledge (online instructors) and those who want to be lifelong learners (online students). Actually, you probably need a third – those who are both!

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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