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At Stanford, Scholars Debate the Promises, Pitfalls of Online Learning


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William Bowen

William Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University, recently gave a talk titled "Prospects for an Online Fix: Can We Harness Technology in the Service of Our Aspiration?" at Stanford University.

Credit: L.A. Circero

Although online learning has great potential to enhance the education process, Princeton University president emeritus William Bowen cites three obstructions to deployment--little hard data, a lack of shared software platforms to ensure broad take-up, and the need to change our way of thinking.

In regards to the first obstacle, Bowen notes studies uncovering no statistically significant differences in learning outcomes between traditional classes and hybrid-online classes. As for the second barrier, Bowen says "the educational community should make every effort to take advantage of the great strengths" of existing software platforms. Another pressing reason for rethinking higher education is the perception that public support for it may be waning, with Columbia University's Andrew Delbanco predicting that the ranks of university faculty will shrink and be concentrated in star educators, while a merger between nonprofit and for-profit enterprises is likely.

Meanwhile, Stanford professor Daphne Koller says classroom social interaction can be incorporated into online learning technology to a certain degree. She calls the potential of analytics derived from online learning in which scores of students demonstrate viable and nonviable learning methods as "a miraculous opportunity."

From Stanford Report
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