The flipped classroom, the virtual classroom, and videos

A recent and nicely written article asks “Will the internet replace traditional education?”. This is an interesting question. However replacing traditional education isn’t necessarily the point. Let’s consider the case of videos.

Videos are a key technology for the flipped classroom as well as the virtual classroom.

In the flipped classroom, students use video lessons to preview and review central concepts for their course. This allows the students and instructor to spend more of their class time on the challenging problems traditionally relegated to homework.

In the virtual classroom, students receive all of their instruction via the web. Videos play an even larger role than in the flipped classroom, and interesting problems are fielded electronically by some combination of instructors, teaching assistants, and learning peers.

A common difference in these two approaches is class size, and, by extension, personal interaction with the instructor. In the flipped classroom, class sizes are likely to remain small, or even decrease as active discussion becomes a larger part of the classroom experience. In contrast, the virtual classroom seems poised to embrace hundreds of thousands of students for the most popular material and instructors.

I believe the internet will be revolutionary, but replacing traditional education isn’t necessarily the point. Consider two ways in which the internet is primed to facilitate big changes in education: (i) how we teach, and (ii) who has access. Videos actively invite the re-invention of educational models. However, free educational resources, including videos, will be revolutionary, even if they often find themselves used in traditional classrooms.

In general, I think the future is for tradition, revolution, and education to come together so the largest number of people can teach and learn in a way they find most rewarding.

Cheers, Chris


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