Online learning replacing traditional education – a friend or foe?

To the many of you out there who are pursuing higher education, have completed some form of higher education, or are considering post-secondary learning: With the current age of technological innovation at the hands of such a globalized community, what do you think of technology’s’ collaboration into the world of education? Has this e-learning experience replaced the traditional ways of classroom lectures? If not, will it? Is technology replacing education really a friend or a foe?


Technology is transforming a new generation of education

Below is a short video interview with Sir Ken Robinson, an author, speaker, and educationalist. Sir Ken Robinson provides his opinion on how technology is transforming education. In the age where children are born into a generation of technological innovation unlike some of their educators, the concept of technological shift in education is no longer out-of-bounds. Sir Ken Robinson argues the need for teachers to reform the education system, using creative measures to build around technology and into the heart of education. Sir Ken Robinson has also created quite a visually uplifting presentation on a history of education systems and the changing paradigms to modern contemporary systems. Here is a quick link to the video for those interested!

Let’s break it down: pros and cons

Take a look at some advantages and disadvantages. It is hard to argue whether one is right or wrong, what is better or worse or even if something can be both good and bad. Keep in mind that what may seem like a disadvantage to one may be the perfect benefit to another.

Online learninghires1


  • Convenience: hurrah for saving on gas and public transport! Why not change the scenery and sit in the library, at a nice park, or even stay in bed. Live in a different country? Visiting the cottage? That’s no problem at all!
  • Time management: work is no longer in the way of your academic responsibilities. That’s the beauty of it – make your own schedule and pace yourself.
  •  Enhanced communication: discussion boards, emails, search engines…etc. you name it, someone out there will be more than happy to guide your studies.
  • Learning motivation: rather than being fed through a tube of endless textbook pages, students can discover, involve, and connect to the material themselves.
  • Variety: there are an abundance of degree programs and certificate courses offered. No matter where you are, there are classes offered for your convenience.


  • Self-discipline: do you have the motivation? The time management skills? (You see, time management can be both beneficial and detrimental!)
  • Communication: While some may argue there is a greater sense of communication between the peer-peer and peer-prof relationship, others that are of “introvert” personalities may beg to differ.

Traditional learning  WiersmaEngagingLecture1


  • Immediate interaction: lectures are prepared and directed immediately, whether through lecture slides, video examples, hands on experiments…etc. There is an immediate sense of opportunistic participation.
  • Discipline: within a fixed semester schedule, concepts are taught in a timely manner as not to overwhelm students.
  • Student interaction: there is an opportunity for those to form new friendships, study groups, or simply someone with similar interests.
  • Hands-on: For those hard to grasp concepts, sometimes the best solution is to get those hands tinkering!


  • Fixed structure: while one may catch on fairly quickly, the other may be grasping onto the concept barely by the tail. A fixed lecture schedule can’t be personalized to each and everyone’s needs.
  • Classroom discussion: Due to the amount of material some courses need to cover within fixed time frames, there may not be much room for student participation.
  • Process: The teacher is the authority to an existing curriculum, students are learning through standardized tests and sometimes outdated texts.

These are just a few that are important to myself although here is a link I found to a great comparison chart of many more advantages and disadvantages.


The race to the top

Coursera, a California company offering online college classes is among many in the rise towards higher education. Coursera is co-founded by Daphne Koller, a Computer science Professor at Stanford University. Dr. Kollers’ involvement with Coursera has enticed and inspired many. Her start-up program is brilliantly presented in this Ted Talk and Coursera has since partnered with 10 public university systems potentially offering online classes to 1.25 million more students. Universities joining the technological bandwagon include State University of New York, University of Colorado, University of Nebraska, and many more. With a flexible platform provided by Coursera, courses will be offered at lower costs, more efficient learning and increased graduation rates…etc. This will all be provided by Coursera through the rising introduction of available MOOCs (massive open online courses) that are a blend of traditional facilitated learning with modern technological resources.

Currently it has been reported by Marketdata Enterprises Inc. that 30% of higher education involve online course enrollment. This 6.2 million student enrollment is actually a 385% increase since 2002. Now imagine what these numbers might be now…this number is predicted to rise another 7% to 37% by 2015. Another survey by Babson Research Group also show that 32% of students take online courses at a certain point in their academic journey. Numbers aside, what does this all really mean? Take a look at the video below, it is a great summary of how the world has changed through the social media generation into a world of digital learning. In this day and age, no matter the generation you were born in, the time now is a technologically infused globalized society. Whether you are for or against a replacement of traditional standards towards modern digital resources, we are a midst a reformation to the education system – towards a digitally enhanced learning experience.


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A Students’ look: media piracy and all its glory

Since the dawn of piracy and the fall of the music industry, people have been searching high and low for a solution. Laws have been made, bills passed and major file-sharing sites charged. However, have things really changed at all? Yes the global recorded music revenues in 2012 have gone up a whopping 0.3% since its decade of hardship. Does that mean that there is less sneaky illegal pirate action? Have sales suddenly grown lucrative? I think not. If anything, I feel as though the industry has embraced media piracy simply as another next door business competitor and has found new, innovative ways to counteract and succeed.

Has anything changed? 

Music-file-collectionsAccording to a study by the NDP group, illegal peer to peer file sharing has decreased 17% from 2011 to 2012. Almost half of the consumers that once were illegal down-loaders reported their change in illegal activity due to the arrival of free, legal, and convenient streaming services. In another article by Huffington Post Tech Canada, statistics were highlighted from a 2012 report by the American Assembly Media Piracy In Emerging Economies. There was a correlation between the individuals with the highest free downloading activity and their self-reported record industry expenditure. The data shows a 30% increase in record industry purchases from illegal music down-loaders vs. individuals who do not pirate. What does that say about the “actual” harmful effects of piracy and the individuals who condone or partake in this activity?

Possible solution? “The Art of asking” sharingiscaring

A video shown below by singer songwriter Amanda Palmer on Ted Talks sheds insight on her methodology towards “The Art of asking”. The alt-rock icon does not believe in fighting against free sharing content. Her beliefs can be summed pretty much as – you give and you get, unlocked, free to spread. She left her record label deal because she believed in her fans and their support for her success. The love and support from the fans are what drives her financial income and artistic success. Simply from the art of asking from the loving and supportive fans, she has managed to raise a whopping $1.2million from her 100k goal, backed by 25,000 supporters. The kindness of human nature speaks volumes. We should not look at human nature as selfish creatures but rather kind hearts that have the ability to relate and reach out when needed. What do you think of her methodology?

So…what about copyright protection? 

copyright-musicThis article by The New York Times technology discusses the concept that by removing copy right protection, there is actually an increase in sales due to the idea that consumers may “sample the product” prior to purchase.  It takes a look at Tor Books UK, a publishing company. Tor Books decided a year ago in April 2012 to step foot into the realms of DRM-free listing. This decision was based on opinions expressed by both authors and readers against the frustrations of DRM, a copy protection method towards ebooks. Although Tor Books is a close-knit online community, the past year they have received no apparent increase in pirated content since the DRM change. It is very significant to note that this type of change, dismissing copy right protection on all ebooks, could have little to no effect on their pirating levels.

Industry loss…

Over the years the entertainment industry has continually blamed and attempted legal enforcement against piracy. In a 2011 MPAA report on content theft, there has been over $58 billion annual loss in the U.S. along with over 370,000 unemployed according to the Institute for Policy Innovation. Interestingly enough, a Ted Talk shown below by author and entrepreneur Rob Reid debunks the $58 billion loss as bogus copyright math. Since then it has received thousands of commentators along with a MPAA blog post correcting the record.

A humorous and insightful Ted Talk by Rob Reid on Copyright math.

My thoughts…

I think a major part of the problem to piracy is the relation between the publisher and the consumer. As a student, I look for quality and convenience at a reasonable price. That being said, if ebooks, music, movies etc. were made available with this sort of pro-customer quality, convenience, and financially feasible mindset, I don’t see why the majority of the population would not pay to support their actors, authors, singers etc. Yes this is an ongoing battle likely not to succeed or dispatch in the near future; however I do believe the “answer” to the big piracy debate is not so much the punitive enforcement increased bill by bill, rather innovative services that condone a pro-customer solution.



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Are we surrendering our sense of direction to GPS?

As the course unit delves into topics of trust and technology, particularly the GPS, I can’t help but wonder…what did I ever do before the GPS? I’m sure many of you would agree to have questioned yourself how you ever lived or got around without a GPS. Is the GPS slowly taking over the remainder of my “human compass” or my natural “sense of direction” so to speak? Well I’m here to investigate!


How dependent are we?

Exactly how dependent are we to that lovely monotone voice?

She, her lovely monotone voice is our lifeline, the mediator to all the car arguments we have ever encountered. You might ask – as technology is more and more integrated to support our every little need, what’s so bad about accepting help? True, I am able to admit navigational devices have saved me what could have taken hours on end of needlessly frustrating searches. However, what happens when these devices become a crutch to our lifestyle and our only reliable source. There won’t be anyone to help you other than your trusty instincts when your Iphone, android, or Tomtom dies suddenly!

Let’s take for example. Back a while ago, an US woman, Lauren Rosenberg, tried to sue Google for their Google Maps service. She claims her use of Google Maps for a 1.2km trip caused her physical, mental, and emotional pain by leading her into a sidewalk-less four-lane highway and ultimately, the harsh reality of a motor vehicle. The case was of course thrown out for unreasonable claims. Now let it simmer a bit. Exactly how dependent have we become? Maybe not to such extreme cases, but I think most of us are guilty to some sort of irreplaceable bond.

Sense of direction, do you have it?

Sense of direction, do you have it?

What is “sense of direction”? 

According to Julia Frankenstein of The New York Times Sunday Review, psychologist Dr. Edward C. Tolman conducted cognitive learning experiments in the 40s on rats in mazes. According to Dr. Tolman, “Learning consists not in stimulus-response connections but in the building up in the nervous system of sets which function like cognitive maps”. In other words, our everyday curiosity of the world, the exploration of our surroundings, all contribute to the physical maps created to anchor our cognitive mental mapping abilities.  Julia Frankenstein also noted that our heavy dependency towards GPS devices leads us to reduced cognitive abilities. A study by Dr. Eleanor A. Maguire at the University of College London found reduced brain structures for cognitive spatial abilities to forming mental maps when relying on navigational systems. Dr. Maguire found larger hippocampus (memory forming, storage area) in London taxi drivers compared to the general population. Basically, taxi drivers who relied on traditional methods of “getting to know the neighborhood” had better spatial memory compared to the average GPS junkie

In this video below by The Walrus, Giuseppe Iaria, a neuroscience post-doc. studying human navigation finds that people who think they have an inherent bad sense of direction are simply too lazy to the task of learning their surrounding environment. Both researchers Guiseppe Iaria and Veronique Bohbot have developed virtual video game platform scenarios to test human orientation skills on landmark and surrounding environments.

To sum it up nicely, practice makes perfect. Like learning an instrument and never practicing again, we lose our sense of direction when we stop using it.

So do we have hope? 

What should we do? Swear off the existence of GPS, take out a compass and start exploring the world at the eye of its beholder? No that’s crazy talk! The majority of us love technology and embrace it far too much to cut the cord from having the chance to navigate to the nearest Tims within a fraction of a minute. This does not mean we can’t give a second thought on the idea that maybe the next time your phone decides to magically die; you will not sit around hopelessly lost. Maybe you will start paying attention to your surroundings, the unusual landmarks that give the “aha I know where I am” light bulb in your head. At this day and age, we are constantly changed by the ever expanding tech world, faster than you may think. Don’t let technology take away your human abilities.

Cheers! icon_TriageDirection

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