Professors should integrate online learning techniques in classrooms

We’ve all been there: sitting in a classroom, violently jotting down notes, only to go home and realize no information was retained. To complete the week’s homework without utilizing professors’ mythical “office hours,” one might turn to the Internet instead to re-teach what cannot be recollected from the less-than-memorable class. After some vehement browsing (and one or two Netflix breaks), sites like Khan Academy, VideoLectures and Brightstorm crop up, and suddenly statistics and biology make more sense than ever before. Because of the video tutorials, practice and chat options on these sites, students are able to return to class prepared for the lesson and with a new insight they previously lacked.

Professors should implement these valuable online resources and tutorials to supplement their courses. All classes should be taught in a multi-faceted manner and online resources accommodate for the various types of learning that one classroom will include. Since not every student will understand the method of teaching a certain professor may use, the merits of online learning should be recognized, appreciated and utilized fully.

It is not a secret that every individual processes information in a different way. Some of us learn best by simply taking notes, while others may need a more technical and practical approach. The learning-styles hypothesis that we all process and retain information uniquely and engage with certain materials more readily suggests that, as humans, we do not all have the same strengths or aptitudes. But rather than putting all the pressure on a professor to specially tailor their teaching to hold the attention of each student, there are countless online learning websites that can complement a curriculum.

The question then becomes how this kind of technology should be integrated into a syllabus. Khan Academy currently has 10 million users worldwide, a number that continues to steadily grow. The site has thousands of course-specific video tutorials, ranging from music lessons to economics to MCAT prep. In addition to these videos, students can take interactive quizzes, ask questions or chat with licensed professionals and track their progress in any given subject, all conveniently from one’s laptop and entirely free of charge.

If professors encouraged or even required each student to set up an account on a site such as Khan Academy and do weekly quizzes to boost their knowledge and practice in the course, the curriculum would be reinforced at home, undoubtedly increasing the student’s success. Instead of shying away from online learning and deeming it distracting or inefficient, educators should recognize its benefits and implement it into their respective courses. In addition, online resources can teach students in a way that is tailored for their preferences, therefore increasing their level of understanding. The best way for a student’s in-class experiences to become multi-faceted and beneficial no matter how one learns is to involve an online component in which the student can engage and interact with the material of their choice and through their preferred medium, whether it be videos, quizzes, games or so forth.

Already, the material from Khan Academy has been incorporated into the curriculums of 20,000 schools worldwide. Former Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun also realized the effects of online learning when he offered a free online course on artificial intelligence in 2011. Many of the students who preferred online learning exclusively received one full letter grade higher on their midterms and finals than when they attended class in person. However, as not to render the physical existence of our professors useless, we should instead be bringing technology and in-person class time together by making online learning an integral part of traditional, organized learning. Embracing the help available online can only make our classroom interactions more substantial and improve our overall aptitude for any given subject.

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