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Do Online Classes Jeopardize Our Education?

     Many universities, including Eastern, have begun to replace courses previously offered in person with online classes. There is a certain appeal in being able to take a class accommodated to those with busier schedules, which tends to be most college students. Rather than showing up two to three days a week at a set time, there is more flexibility in being able to follow along from the comfort of your dorm room or a coffee shop, as many or as few times as you choose. Yet the movement towards offering classes online leads us to question the way in which we view our education. What is the purpose of education? How is learning connected to the cultivation of good friendships? Ought we to think of our learning as something done in isolation? How are we to view our role within the classroom as students? What does it mean to have good conversation?

     It seems as though our current education system is geared towards spitting out a chain of efficient workers rather than fostering good, well-rounded people. Education is an important factor in shaping our values, which in turn affects the role we play in our families, our churches and, on a broader scale, our communities. Should we not think about the effects that our education has on the way in which we interact with others? A classroom should be a place in which there is a cultivation of love and appreciation for beautiful things, good people and meaningful conversations. A classroom is a place where important questions are to be asked and hard discussions are to be navigated: a place where you can learn to carry a conversation as if it were a dance in which you continually seek to make your partner look better.

     Ken Robinson, author and international consultant on education, believes learning should be designed to instill a sense of creativity in students. However, he holds that the current system is educating people out of their creativeness. Rather than creating a space in which many different learning styles can thrive, we attempt to put education into a tidy box that can be mass produced, which only creates more of what it already is: a machine.

     The nature of online classes cuts off the element of our education that centers on being a part of a larger community. While there are discussion boards for class websites which are designed to provide a place for dialogue, they lack the intimacy and authenticity of meaningful face-to-face conversations. Without a sense of community, education loses an essential component. That is to say, a class ought to be a space in which students and professors alike learn how to love, grow and seek in the company of others. Education is inherently personal. In-person classes are necessary for building relationships, which cannot be divorced from our learning. We need people to grow with. We need other people to fully understand the depth of our favorite characters in literature. We need people to grasp the complexity of human life that exists in a single cell. We need people to come alongside us and show us what it looks like to be a good friend.

     While online classes have their place in universities, we should think deeply about what we value in education and how we can incorporate this into these courses.

     Source: Ken Robinson, “How Schools Kill Creativity”

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