• Follow us


Take It From An Online Teacher: E-Learning Sets Ontario Kids Up To Fail

In early June 2019, PricewaterhouseCoopers reportedly sent unsolicited emails to Ontario guidance counsellors offering gift cards in exchange for information on student behaviour, ostensibly conducting market research into the “online education market in Ontario.”

That market represents the high-school students who we now know will be required to take four e-learning courses to obtain their diploma under Doug Ford’s new plan. The reasoning behind the push for e-learning at high school — which is set to roll out in 2020, details yet to be announced — is a little fuzzy.

Former Education Minister Lisa Thompson on Nov. 19,

Chris Young/The Canadian PressFormer Education Minister Lisa Thompson on Nov. 19, 2018.

While opposition members accuse the Ford government of simply trying to cut teachers’ jobs, former Education Minister Lisa Thompson claimed under pressure from the Opposition in March that the province’s e-learning plan was a progressive move for the digital era: “When it comes to online opportunities for our students, I think we should all agree ... we want to make sure that they have every opportunity to put their best foot forward.”

I’ve been teaching courses at the college level online since about 2002. I’ll argue the merits of online learning, especially for my field – writing, which is conducted entirely via the internet these days – with anyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to education, and it’s particularly ill suited for high-school kids. A “best foot forward” isn’t what is likely to happen.

Put simply, most students are not prepared for their own role in e-learning. 

In a classroom setting, students only need to show up at the right place and time. They will be told what to do and what is expected from them. Online, they enter a learning platform that is — as I like to tell them — something like a room full of filing cabinets. You have to look into all of them, and read all the material in those drawers, to get a full understanding of how things work. 

Some studies put the drop-out rate between 40 and 80 per cent overall for online courses.

In all my courses, and I suspect most e-learning experiences overall, there is a pattern to the proceedings. Students read the lecture and post responses in a discussion forum, where I give feedback. You have to show up not just once, but several times a week, to keep up on online discussions and absorb feedback, which can be updated at any time of day or night. Based on all of that, they then move on to completing and submitting the assignment.

That’s how it’s supposed to happen. In reality, very few people actually read my feedback to the discussion forums. (I know, because I check the statistics.) In fact, the majority enter their discussion post and then immediately submit their work, as if completing all the tasks, and checking all the boxes, was the only point to the exercise. 

What is actually being learned? In my eternal optimism, I keep offering feedback I know will be ignored, marking assignments I know will contain all the weaknesses I’ve already warned students about, and correcting all the grammatical errors that they wouldn’t make if they had just read the material. The reward is that the students who do persevere are highly motivated and generally do very well.

‘It’s the ideal environment for students to give up, tune out’

I have very rarely failed anyone who’s completed all the assignments; routinely, however, up to a third of the class will simply not complete the course. Disengagement, and low levels of completion, are the biggest fly in the ointment when it comes to online learning. 

A review of the research on e-learning published in 2016 found that online courses have higher rates of attrition than traditional classes by 10 to 20 per cent. Some studies put the drop-out rate between 40 and 80 per cent overall for online courses. That heightened drop-out rate persists at all levels of education. 

It’s easy to put off even starting a course. I know from experience that about 20 per cent of the class won’t even sign into the course until the third week or so — others, never. One research study that tracked 113 students in a post-secondary graduate program found that about 15 per cent of those who dropped out halfway through the semester had never even started any of the work.

Take It From An Online Teacher: E-Learning Sets Ontario Kids Up To

GCShutter via Getty Images

Some of that has to do with expectations, I suspect. Potential students may think that online courses are easier or require less effort. When this hunch is proven wrong, grades drop and motivation follows. One study by researchers at the University of Maribor in Slovenia quantifiedthis correlation between retention and student performance. If students were satisfied with their marks, they continued with their course, and vice versa.

It’s not terribly surprising that many students only do what they feel is the minimum to get by, ignoring at least part of the wealth of information available as part of a course. In fact, the way people read on the web itself tends to work against full comprehension. 

The way we read online is different than how we read from printed sources, and the research bears out my own impressions. As described by research firm Nielsen Norman Group, people tend to read or consume a web page in a kind of “F” pattern — they read the first blocks of text more closely, then skim down the rest of it in decreasing intensity.

They still need the guidance and input of teachers to make sure it is an enriching learning experience.

Readers young and old retain information better, and are able to concentrate on longer texts, when engaging in print. We tend to read web pages faster, rather than study them in depth. Some studies found that we tend to believe we’ve retained more than we have from reading a text from a screen, which may result in a built-in self-defeating cycle of skimming through the material, even as we’re convinced we’ve gotten it all. It’s too easy to miss crucial information.

I’ve added video links to the written lectures, and other supplementary information — in one case, a class blog to practice on — which many students seem to love. Others complain that there is too much information in too many places, and some tell me they’d prefer written information only. In other words, it has the same mixed result as text.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the differences are inherent to e-learning or due to a different attitude towards online text — the result is that, from a teaching perspective, you are always left with head-banging-against-the-wall syndrome. The material students need is there, if they’d only read it.

Without a firm sense of motivation for self-directed work, e-learning creates an ideal environment for students to give up, tune out and make a minimal effort, far from an ideal solution for education at the high-school level.

It’s true that students need to be prepared for the digital environment they are likely to work in but, as teenagers, they still need the guidance and input of teachers to make sure it is an enriching learning experience for all of them.

Have an opinion you’d like to share on HuffPost Canada? You can find more information here on how to pitch and contact us.

Read More

Leave A Comment

More News

Top Travel stories

Toronto warms up to a cold one 2019-07-03 20:04:58It has taken four years, but Toronto Councillor Mike Layton says the city is finally making it much easier for entrepreneurs to tap into the growing l

LILLEY: Canadians are voting Scheer with their wallets 2019-07-03 19:48:30There are polls which gauge voter support and try to predict which way an election might go, and then there are the ways people vote with their wallet

LILLEY: Trudeau government slips on ethics again 2019-07-03 19:37:33We have an ethically challenged federal government, no one can deny that. Our prime minister has been found in violation of ethics law violations as h

EDITORIAL: The Liberals have problems with judicial independence 2019-07-03 19:31:45It’s not enough that politicians be clear of actual wrongdoing when it comes to misdeeds, such as corruption or improperly interfering with the

MANDEL: Court criticizes Toronto JP for waiving victim 2019-07-03 19:26:50The Robin Hood of Toronto East court has had his knuckles rapped — and so Justice of the Peace Patrick Marum won’t be waiving the victim f

Netherlands get past Sweden in listless semifinal at 2019-07-03 19:12:29LYON — Sweden and the Netherlands was never going to live up to United States and England, but at least they could have tried to put on a better

GOLDSTEIN: Canadians want fewer refugees, while Liberals want 2019-07-03 19:06:37A slew of recent public opinion polls on Canadian attitudes toward immigrants and refugees — the latest one commissioned by the CBC — sugg

Roxodus Music Festival cancelled due to ‘rainy weather’ 2019-07-03 18:57:02Provincial police are reportedly investigating the company behind the now-cancelled Roxodus Festival. The four-day rock fest was set for July 11-14 at

FUREY: China just laughed in Canada’s face – 2019-07-03 18:47:41The Chinese government has now delivered what the kids today would call a “sick burn” against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Af

Coyotes will get their Phil 2019-07-03 18:22:31Rick Tocchet, nicknamed ‘the Phil Kessel Whisperer’ for his unique relationship with the quirky star, says the winger is going to be fine

Letters to the Editor for Wednesday, July 3 2019-07-03 00:30:22TWO IDEAS AND TWO ADDICTIONS Since 1974 I have been endorsing two ideas 1) profit sharing with any American citizen that works for a living and 2) Ran

Drake ‘mounting recruiting campaign’ to keep Kawhi Leonard 2019-07-03 00:09:04With #KawhiUpdate and #KawhitotheLakers both trending on social media all day Tuesday, it seems the Raptors are playing their biggest trump card in th

Canada Travel - The

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Mascot Got A Makeover And 2019-07-03 18:05:10He’s beauty and he’s grace, he’s got a terrifying smile on his face — he’s the new Gainer the Gopher, and people are not

Canada Seeks International Support On Banning Russian Passports 2019-07-03 17:34:00OTTAWA — Canada is courting international support for its plan to reject Russian passports given to Ukrainian citizens in the parts of Ukraine o

HuffPost Canada Splash: July 3, 2019 2019-07-03 16:59:59

Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Are Keeping Archie's 2019-07-03 16:27:58Bad news for your royal baby betting pools: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be keeping the identities of baby Archie’s godparents a secret.T

Mike Schreiner, Ontario's Only Green MPP, Kicks Off 2019-07-03 16:14:24When asked what the Ford government could be doing better on environmental policy, Mike Schreiner starts laughing. “Well first of all, stop

Are Noisy Hand Dryers Causing Hearing Damage? A 2019-07-03 16:06:08The concerns of any parent tending to a child may proliferate when entering the dampness of a public bathroom: Avoid the radioactive puddles on the fl

Special Prosecutor Will Assist With Investigation Into Alberta 2019-07-03 15:31:35EDMONTON — The Alberta government says a special out-of-province prosecutor will assist in a criminal fraud investigation into the United Conser

Take It From An Online Teacher: E-Learning Sets 2019-07-03 15:11:49In early June 2019, PricewaterhouseCoopers reportedly sent unsolicited emails to Ontario guidance counsellors offering gift cards in exchange for

Potash Producer Nutrien Says 34 Workers Trapped In 2019-07-03 14:48:04SASKATOON — Nutrien Ltd. says 34 maintenance workers have been trapped in its Cory potash mine in Saskatchewan since Tuesday afternoon.Company s

Vancouver's Benchmark House Price Drops Back Below $1 2019-07-03 14:10:33Good news, would-be homebuyers in Vancouver: Things have just gotten a little easier for you.Not easy, mind you. But easier.The latest data from the R

Period Pain Leads To 9 Days A Year 2019-07-03 13:48:44If, for some reason, you are undecided in your feelings about menstrual pain, here’s yet another reason to hate it: according to a new study, it

Tories Flush With Cash Heading Into Election As 2019-07-03 13:32:42OTTAWA — Newly released figures show the federal Conservatives entered this election year having outpaced the Liberals in fundraising by more th

Breaking Travel News

Focus: 4 Reasons to Visit Hawaii at Least 2019-07-03 07:06:22Hawaii, the tropical vacation spot with natural beauty is unlike any other place in the world. Starting from the majestic mountains to city life, you

News: Royal Caribbean Cruises orders third Icon-class ship 2019-07-03 06:48:10Royal Caribbean Cruises has today announced that it has entered into an agreement with shipbuilder Meyer Turku to order a third Icon-class ship for de

News: Zuber and Armitage step up to Kerzner 2019-07-03 06:09:43Kerzner International Holdings has announced the promotion of two key executives. Philippe Zuber has been promoted to chief operating officer of the c

News: Africa Hotel Investment Forum reveals financial impact 2019-07-03 06:02:15An independent assessment by the international tourism advisory expert, Martin Jansen van Vuuren, has quantified the significant economic benefits to

News: Carnival Vista to undergo floating repairs in 2019-07-03 05:42:26Carnival Cruise Line has revealed that Netherlands-based Boskalis will deploy a transport vessel as a first of its kind “floating dry dock&rdquo

News: Delta to roll-out new main cabin dining 2019-07-03 05:28:30Customers will enjoy a new dining experience later this year when Delta debuts its new main cabin service. Complimentary welcome cocktails, featuring

News: Aer Lingus takes off for Minneapolis−Saint Paul 2019-07-03 05:17:03Aer Lingus’ inaugural service to Minneapolis-St. Paul, gateway to the Midwest, has taken to the skies, marking the start of the airline’s

Focus: Successful second annual Mexico Travel Roadshow 2019 2019-07-03 04:56:30Top Mexican destinations and suppliers met tour operators and travel agents last week in three important regions in the UK. With the UK being the most

News: MS Roald Amundsen takes to water for 2019-07-03 04:29:01Hurtigruten’s new hybrid powered MS Roald Amundsen has made what the company is calling maritime history, becoming the first cruise ship in the

News: Loisaba Lodo Springs in Loisaba Conservancy opens 2019-07-03 04:22:45Elewana Collection has opened Elewana Loisaba Lodo Springs in Loisaba Conservancy in Kenya. The move brings the total number of properties under the b

News: Global Tourism & Crisis Management Centre partners 2019-07-03 04:16:48The recently established Global Tourism & Crisis Management Centre is set to partner with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to conduct res

News: GTMC rebrands as Business Travel Association 2019-07-03 04:04:41The GTMC has rebranded as the Business Travel Association. The new brand identity and logo was unveiled at its annual overseas conference, being held


Are budget airlines really worth it? 2019-06-22 10:01:04Christian Nielsen, the chief legal officer at AirHelp, a site that helps passengers make claims against airlines, recommends travellers consider wheth

A solo quest to find the source off 2019-06-22 09:54:04In Roman times, it formed the boundary between Gaul and Germania. More recently, of course, pivotal battles of two World Wars were fought here.

At Singapore’s Changi Airport, it’s an adventure before 2019-06-22 09:13:04The result of four years of construction and $1.25 billion (U.S.) in investment, the commercial and entertainment structure aims to do what no other b

Rustic hospitality, but only for foot traffic 2019-06-22 09:05:03Accessible only by foot and connected by the Appalachian Trail, the eight huts offer rustic but comfortable hospitality.

Tradition and evolution coexist at the scenic Connecticut 2019-06-21 23:10:59The village of Stonington is a Rockwellian picture of a New England coastal town, and an idyllic respite from the summer mobs that descend upon places

A journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Sleeping 2019-06-21 21:19:57Despite its war-torn buildings, Bosnia is home to scenery that fits the platonic ideal of a fairy tale, a dreamy dominion punctuated by spindly minare

Scuba diving and stand up paddleboarding in Japan’s 2019-06-21 19:48:56One of the 36 islands in the Kerama Islands archipelago, Zamami has an area of about10 square kilometres and is the perfect place for stand up paddleb

Avoid these travel ‘hacks’ for a smoother summer 2019-06-21 19:32:59Whether it’s the terms of your loyalty program or the complex tariffs governing your airline ticket, the travel industry’s rules are compl

Flying well with kids takes more than a 2019-06-21 18:40:55Travelling, especially flying, with kids is difficult, but not impossible.

This rural retreat to the forests of southern 2019-06-21 18:23:55Stedsans in the Woods offers a chance to stay in a remote uptoia among pines and old-growth oaks in the Swedish woods.

Where to find the best frozen custard in 2019-06-16 18:24:12Here’s the scoop on all the frozen treat hot spots in Cream City.

How to take better travel photos without buying 2019-06-16 18:11:16Before you spend money on a new camera, try improving the photos you take with your current camera or phone. You may be happy enough with the results

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.