An article by Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Douglas Raybeck appears in the winter issue of The Journal of College Admission. In “The Conversion of an Internet Cynic” Raybeck describes how he came to appreciate online education.
He explains how he felt about “early MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses—with an emphasis on massive”), noting that he saw little opportunity “for the recipient of the information and wisdom to interact with the provider.”
Recently, Raybeck said, he became acquainted with online programs for high school students that feature small classes, individual mentoring and original research projects.
Raybeck currently teaches in one such program, the Pioneer Research Program, that enrolls high school students from around the world. In addition to class participation, assigned readings and regular class work, “students must construct and execute a significant independent research project culminating in a 15- to 30-page paper, with supporting data.” He said that many of these research projects these “would serve nicely in fulfillment” of Hamilton’s senior project requirement.
Though his cynicism regarding the use of the Internet for “meaningful education” was based on initial online courses, Raybeck acknowledges that “advances in communication software have made genuine interaction possible between educator and students, and between student and student,” allowing questions to be asked and responses obtained immediately.
“It is the rewarding interactions with students, and the quality of their research projects that has changed this former Internet cynic to an enthusiast,” he concludes.