A few months ago, I did my first reflection about free online courses.In that moment I realized that universities have a great opportunity to share, exchange and develop knowledge by offering this kind of courses. More and more universities are joining to this adventure of open education, and therefore the programs and courses offered are growing rapidly. By now, many courses offer "certificates" or "statements of completion".
From an educational and instructional point of view, free online courses with certificates challenge some of the traditional values and methods of college education. Firstly, as hundreds or even thousands students may enroll in one course, a single teacher cannot attend every question or evaluate every student. Team work and developing systems for peer-reviewing can give some answers to these difficulties. For instance, professor Mitchell Duneier and his assistants, propose that each student must score the work of five students to get his own scores. This evaluation system has showed a considerable consistency with the scores the professor would have assigned (a correlation of 0.88).
Secondly, if every group of students in a classroom is strongly diverse, imagine how diverse the group may be if we have students from many countries, with different languages, values, cultural backgrounds... Democratic dialogue seems to be both the mean and the end to manage such diversity.
Finally, face-to-face relationships vanish and texts and audiovisual materials takes their place. My opinion is that personal interactions are a fundamental element of education and, consequently, online formation faces an important and probably unavoidable obstacle. Here we find one educational argument that highlights the necessity of conserving our traditional college education. In a next post I will add other kind of arguments that support the idea of promoting the coexistence of both systems.