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C'est la Z

Education is not a spectator sport

As many of you know, the CS Education programs I designed here at Hunter were finally approved by NY State late last year. We're planning to get started this summer. I've received many questions about the program and will write up the details here sooner or later but one question I frequently get is "will it be offered online?" This is also something I've been asked more than once internal to Hunter.

Some of these requests make sense - we're in the heart of NYC so someone out on Long Island or further afield upstate won't be able to take our courses in person. This is the advantage of online education. You can partake, or probably more often, consume it from anywhere. Leaving out completion rates, that makes things very attractive. Online is also very popular with bean counters. With it you can set up practically unlimited class sizes. Lots of potential profits.

On the other hand, is it better?

While there are certainly many things you can learn online, is it the same? Some argue that if a professor is straight out lecturing you might as well watch the video. Probably true but is a dynamic professor lecturing online the same as in person?

Is a recorded concert the same as attending live? What about a Broadway show? Sporting event?

I'll listen to music at home, watch a ballgame or even a recording of a live show but it isn't the same. Even when presenter-audience interaction and audience-audience interaction is at a minimum - say a classical concert, the live experience is both different, superior, and more memorable than the memorex.

Now, there's certainly value added by augmenting classes with online content but all too often it's used for cost cutting or profit making. See Virtual or Cyber Charter schools for details.

At the end of the day education is not a spectator sport.

It's built on the relationship between student, teacher, and classmates. You can get some of that online and online is great when there are truly no other alternatives. If we can ever figure out online engagement, then technology will be even better at augmenting (not replacing) good, live instruction. I'm certainly going to look into offering parts of my classes remotely specifically for people outside of NY City but we're a long way from remote education being even close to as good as in person.

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