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Online Learning Must Include the Human Element

By Deborah Williams

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Douglas Rushkoff, writer for CNN.com, recently explored the tremendous demand for online learning in an article on the site, “Online Courses Need Human Element to Educate.” Rushkoff asserts that the explosion of MOOC (massive open online courses) has caused many to question whether or not students are actually being educated or if this is the future of education.

Rushkoff likes online learning, but he offers a few warnings:

  1. Online courses should be couched in “their native environments.”  Computer courses are a good fit for this type of learning, but philosophy courses may not be.
  2. Online courses should never be so regimented that the people involved-teachers and students-are not allowed to be themselves.  He opposes scripted or choreographed instruction.
  3. Online learning should allow for natural interchanges between the instructor and the learner.  It should be engaging and able to respond to the individual differences among students.

Rushkoff believes that “education does not happen in isolation,” so he supports opportunities that allow for heterogeneous groups of students to engage with each other.  There is no substitute for the “human element” in any kind of learning, and that includes online learning.

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