What Online Education Should Be Like.

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Having taken a number of online classes, it occurred to me that not everyone understands what an online class really is.

I feel that the image that most people here have is either

1) “do what you used to do in the classroom online”

or

2) “take a video, publish it on the system and collect homework”.

And the essence of online education as “self-learning”, similar to the so-called traditional “distance learning”, is forgotten.

Every country has developed its own distance learning system, but now that classes that were originally taught on a commuter basis are now taught at a distance, it would be good to draw on the wisdom of distance learning. However, this has not been the case, and it seems to be an extension of the classroom.

Organisation of the situation

The styles of distance learning and internet education that I have actually received are as follows.

(1) Textbooks and assignment sheets are sent to the students. Most of the correspondence courses are like this, almost like they are selling the materials to you. There are corrections, but only a handful of people can complete the course with these.

(2) The above plus video materials. This is another type of pushy salesman. This is also a kind of hard sell, and often the only thing you get is a lot of material. The effect is similar to that of (1).

(3) The above with discussion boards. This is a bit more interactive, but basically the same as above. However, the sense of participation is a little more motivating.

(4) Some live lessons. This is a little more interactive and more effective.

(5) The above with face-to-face schooling. This gives the students a sense of having done something and makes them more likely to stick with it.

(6) In addition to the above, we also send the students abroad. In many cases, they take a holiday, so they feel elated and satisfied, which is very popular with the conscious people.

(7) Face-to-face training over the internet. Online English conversation is a good example of this. However, it is the same as (1) in terms of whether it is possible to feed back the results.

Although distance learning in many countries has accumulated this kind of experience, many teachers in the field have not experienced this kind of ‘forced’ online education, and not only have they not been able to control it at all, but the confusion of teachers and the resentment of students are all that stands out.

The subject of this article is where the distance and misunderstanding lie and how it should be resolved. I have been thinking about why this is happening and what can be done about it daily, and today I would like to draw a step-by-step conclusion and use it as a starting point for a methodology to be applied to my own future-plans for online education.

It may seem like a big thing to say, but as a student all my life, I have been frustrated by each of them, and at the same time I have found something to appreciate about each of them, and I want to try to make something out of it.

The content on offer

As mentioned earlier, the lessons provided are “as much as possible the same as in the classroom”. This was not wrong for the moment, but it did not take into account the fact that the actual load on both sides was different. From the teacher’s point of view, and this varies from person to person, there was a tendency to think that doing the same thing was enough. Of course, there were teachers who had prepared a variety of supplementary materials and uploaded them all. The latter is correct, but we think there was a bit of a gap.

What were the missing pieces? The premise is that there is no standard format for this type of teaching. There is no standard for the amount of material, the length of the video, and so on. I think that’s where the difference in quality and quantity comes in. “The lack of a definition of ‘this is an online class’ leads to a proliferation of substandard teaching.

So far, distance learning has been text, video, audio, drills, and tools at best. And the video lessons that have existed so far have been at best video, at best subtitles, and at best PowerPoint. But there was no numerical standard, no requirement for quality. No company would have thought of that in the first place.  

On the other hand, was the effectiveness of the education ever measured? The results of many distance learning courses were left to the students, and like the natural selection of nature, those who did not continue were abandoned, while the organisers made more money. The majority of these are so-called qualification courses because they carry less weight in life than degree-granting courses, they don’t demand as much money, and they are often forgotten after a period of time.

I don’t have to tell you how much this habit has fattened up the likes of Gakubun, the Japan Education Association (now UCAN) and FUKUTAKE SHOTEN (now BENESSE). And you know how much we students have poured into them. Needless to say, I think the same can be said for the degree. There are now many universities where you can complete your degree online, but many of the universities that host them are of the same nature – sell-outs. I have “invested” in a number of institutions, but there is no commitment to the completion of the so-called student, and they don’t care where or how you die. This is certainly different from actually being enrolled in an on-campus school.

However, I feel that such distance learning companies have certainly put a lot of thought into their materials. On the other hand, there was no thought put into the teaching materials of the universities. This means that the focus is completely different. I feel that there is a difference in the mentality and the point of view of the seller (school) and the buyer (company). Schools (sellers) are the big boys. That’s why they don’t see students as customers. This attitude is reflected in the teaching materials. This is a phase that Australian universities are now trying to overcome.

What is required of these offerings? Isn’t it (1) materials that take into account how they can be interactive, (2) a system, and (3) an ‘experience that makes sense’?

What content is required?

As a learner, it is natural to seek cost effectiveness. If you pay a lot of money and are not provided with an environment in which you can gain a reasonable amount of knowledge, it is a complete fraud. In this sense, the distance learning offered by Japanese universities is an outdated scam. Even the content taught in schools is of questionable value. We feel the same way at Griffith. There is a huge difference between the image of the school and its content, especially since it has gone online. But this also means that offline education has been problematic.

Were the lectures in the classroom effective? The question has to be explored to that extent before it can be resolved. The key is: what do we want from our schools?

What we want from schools is the impartation and retention of knowledge and the logic to use it. However, what teachers usually do is to throw knowledge away and leave it at that, and the only result is a test and a score. The content is no different from distance learning, but there is a sense that the students are satisfied just by breathing the same classroom air. But how many of them realise that this is just a donation to the education industry? Testing may be a very ideal tool for measuring effectiveness. But there is no follow-up at all. Teachers often say that “our job is to guide you”, but at the end of the semester they throw you out with no way out yet.

So what is actually required? It’s materials (self-study materials). Distance learning already provides part of the answer, but school education is left completely unaware of it.

(1) Simultaneous use teaching aids

This is something I noticed when I was taking classes in technical subjects, and it is a feature that appears particularly in technical subjects. Let me give you an example. In our cybersecurity classes, for example, we use virtual machines to learn about phenomena in a hands-on way, which can be completed by watching the video during the class or afterwards. But what would be the efficiency of learning by video alone, without attending classes? You can email us if you don’t understand something, but the reality is that most of the questions can be answered with a detailed explanation. This is true even if you are actually in the class. If you are given a handout after class that you can follow the steps yourself, it will prevent you from dropping out in many subjects.

(2) Video with correct subtitles (or corrected script files)

Currently, classes consist of pre-recorded videos and live tutorials. For some subjects, both are live, meaning five hours of continuous lectures. However, as we are thrown into the “hard-to-understand sound” either way, we think that subtitles should be added.

We have raised this point with the school and the idea has been adopted and the Dean has given us the go-ahead. If anyone reading this takes a Griffiths class in the future and the video is subtitled, you can be sure that it is a result of my voice this semester. Of course, if you are in Japan, you have to have Japanese subtitles. The point that needs to be considered in all countries is that language as a foreign language is merely a medium. The teaching staff of schools should assume that the content to be taught is the pride of the school, the content of the times, not the type of language, and that the ability to speak a foreign language should not affect the absorption of the content. It should not.

We should also consider the possibility of providing text files after subtitling. This would be a great encouragement for international students and evidence for the school that they have made it this far, and for the teacher as well, the creation of such materials would be useful for understanding the students’ level of understanding and for finding holes in their own lectures.

(3) Guide to reference materials (self-study guide)

This is similar to the first one, but not quite.

Many subjects have a designated textbook and further handouts are provided. Powerpoint is one of them. However, there is a big difference in the assumptions made by teachers who study the relevant papers and texts every year and students who have merely taken the subject. The material guide here refers to the material in which the lecturer has leaned all his understanding of the books and materials specified as reference books to the students and explained them. It should show the ideal model of what the teacher wants the students to understand.

In the first place, a school is a place where students are brought up to become ideal citizens, not a place where they are simply taught and graded. The school is a place where students are brought up to be ideal citizens, not merely taught and graded. Even more so, they should be provided with materials that show them how to achieve that ideal.

This will give students the ability to learn and to chart their own course and will encourage independent learning in a different way to the material in live classes.

The type of teaching that should be provided

On the assumption that these things exist, let us consider the ideal learning routine. The basic premise, of course, is ‘study indoors’.

“As a student, you are required to watch a video lecture before the live tutorial. You try to play the video once, but you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t feel comfortable.

So, you decide to print out the whole material. There was (1) the script, (2) the text, (3) the supplementary reading of the text, (4) the relevant papers, (5) the reading and key points of the papers, (6) the text of the tutorial, and (7) the decomposition guide of the tutorial.

The scripts were then first machine translated and read. In addition, I also put the other materials through machine translation. I printed them out again and tried to read them. When I read the text and the script, I found that there were some keywords that I didn’t understand. There is an explanation, but it seems to be about an article. So, I read the translation of the article and the lecturer’s explanation, and I felt a sense of clarity.

When I watched the video, I could understand the script, and the lecturer’s words seemed to make sense. But when I set up the virtual machine and tried to tweak the system myself, different questions came to mind again. This is where the live tutorials come in, where they can ask questions and solve problems, they have encountered in the tutorial texts they have read in preparation. After the live class, I read the tutorial guide to make sure I knew how to do it. I did not want to forget anything, so I followed the guide several times and learned how to use the system myself. Then I could understand the commands in the lectures and solve the problems by myself.”

It’s a convenient script, but in practice, these steps are what make the knowledge personal.

I use machine translation, and I can’t deny that I admire its benefits. If you don’t know something, ask, that’s it. There is nothing wrong with making knowledge your own, and it should be encouraged.

It is the education industry’s duty to provide knowledge in every conceivable way, and it is the student’s duty to make an active commitment to that commitment (and to provide constructive feedback). At least, that is the case in Australia.

Actions to be taken

As a student, I am constantly suggesting things to the faculty that I have noticed. This is based on the understanding that they are the education industry, and we are their customers.

For some reason, many readers of this site are from Australia. So, what I would like to ask is that we stop simply passively attending classes and accepting test scores, as we do in Japan. What I would like to ask you to do is to stop just passively taking classes and accepting test scores, as we do in Japan, and to tell the teachers straight away what you find difficult to understand and how you think you can improve your understanding. There are several routes to this: (1) directly to the faculty, (2) to the dean, and (3) to your advisor. And without that kind of interaction, it’s not easy to achieve the goal of acquiring knowledge in a foreign country.

So, the important thing is to have an “ideal model” in your mind, whether it is an online class or an on-campus class. If you don’t have an idea of what it should look like, it’s impossible to ask for it or imagine it. That form has already been shown above. So, if you can reasonably argue that the subject you are taking does not have A or B, the school will have no choice but to comply, and you will increase the cost of your own study abroad (or in your own country).

Finally, let me emphasise once more. An online class that does not meet the above criteria is not an online education in the true sense of the word. It is a defective product. Otherwise, MOOCs are good enough. That’s why I will continue to discuss with schools. I hope you will continue to learn as much as we do.

Thank you!

I don’t know if you are a student or not, and if you are, I would like to exchange ideas and work with you to make sure that your huge tuition fee is not wasted. If you have a better idea, please share it with us. My idea is just one of many.

Translation by DEEPL
Edited by the original author.

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