"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Online Versus Face to Face

One can read a chemistry textbook from cover to cover. How much one would learn by doing so depends on one's motivation, the ability to comprehend, and the capacity to commit information to long term memory. Of course, the same factors are in play when trying to learn chemistry from an instructor. The important question is whether face-to-face interactions, what traditional classrooms offer, really makes a difference. This question is addressed in part by a study recently published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching:

This study looks specifically at the difference between online and face-to-face collaborative learning among students in a public middle school (grade 8) in central Virginia. The online platform used in the study, Edmodo, allows students in the experimental group to work on their collaborative assignments, which include reading files, answering online quizzes, and participating in discussion threads.
To learn more about Edmodo, please visit this link

The control group does all of the above as well, but inside the classroom, face-to-face. The assignments are identical and both groups of students receive instruction on the materials covered by the assignments. Thus, the only difference is how the students perform their assignments, face-to-face versus online. To assess the students, the MOSART exam (Harvard College, 2011), a test that measures understanding of key scientific concepts, has been utilized:

Above is a screen capture of the Mosart site.
The results are unequivocal. Students from the online class perform poorly compared to the students who are in the face-to-face class:

Above copied from
Wendt, J. L. and Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. (2014), The effect of online collaboration on middle school student science misconceptions as an aspect of science literacy. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 51: 1103–1118. doi: 10.1002/tea.21169
In fact, the experimental group performed a bit better in the pretest, suggesting that students even developed misconceptions during the online activities. One main reason suggested by the researchers behind the poor performance of students assigned to the online activities is the asynchronous nature of online discussions. One does not receive immediate feedback, body language and thus, misunderstanding as well as development of misconceptions can easily occur.

One important lesson that should be learned from the above study is that the mere use of technology in the classroom does not necessarily translate to improvements in learning. Some activities like collaborative learning are much better facilitated face-to-face. The results of the above study certainly supports the notion that the DepEd's new K+12 curriculum is truly wrong-headed:

DepEd should realize that collaboration does not require technology. It actually happens a lot easier face-to-face. And it is cheaper to do this inside a classroom.

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