The chalkboard meets the motherboard: Combining online education and the traditional classroom



Nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one course online, according to Babson Survey Research Group, and this number represents a consistent increase for nine years in a row. There\’s an ongoing debate in education about whether online education measures up to the traditional classroom experience. Some say yes, some say no, but most fall somewhere in the middle.

This middle-ground approach seems to be the most common in institutions of higher learning today, with many education experts advocating for a hybrid of brick-and-mortar learning and massive open online courses (MOOCs). In other words, they think of online education as a supplement to traditional classroom learning. But why is this the best method?

Interaction as Key

But even though companies like Coursera operate largely on an online model, they are slowly learning the value of incorporating the traditional classroom. The reason why many online courses fail, according to Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller, is that they fail to fulfill a student\’s need for interaction to solidify the learning process. The first development stages of Coursera came from Koller\’s idea of the flipped classroom: sending students a pre-recorded lecture with interactive elements, and then using class time to discuss it. Students can study the material over fiber-optic Internet, then bring their questions to class to engage with the material and others.

Just this past May, Coursera teamed up with 10 state universities across the country. In the deal, the universities will pay between $8 and $25 for each student the Coursera course brings to campus. Koller claims that this recent change has created a more economically sustainable system. The co-founder also pointed out that the biggest growth opportunity for the flipped classroom is outside of the U.S., enabling the company to expand even further on both a global and economic scale.

Technology in the Classroom

Google Glass is one of the latest technologies that could potentially transform the classroom beyond online learning. According to informED, Google Glass could enhance the classroom with the following:

  • Foster language learning with the Google Translator app, which offers real-time translation
  • Remote teaching and one-on-one tutoring sessions bridge the gap between busy lifestyles and barriers to student learning
  • With facial recognition technology, teachers can quickly get to know their students and tailor their teaching plans to the unique needs of each student
  • The augmented reality feature of Google Glass enables students to get more out of field trips, discovering facts and figures about their surroundings instantly
  • Students can become more engaged and apply their learning through interactive and augmented reality problem-solving games

Adapting to a Changing World

Some educators lament the changing landscape of education, but the fact remains that we\’re becoming a more technological world. It\’s not the old-fashioned way, and there\’s definitely a few kinks to work out, but online education has been evolving into a proven-effective method of educating students. With the development of MOOCs and more applications of the flipped classroom theory, more evidence can be gathered as to how these methods apply to the modern student.

Author Bio: After 27 years in a classroom, Raymond retired from education to get busy in the grandparenting business. When he’s not spoiling his three granddaughters, he blogs about issues in education and technology.