In the last few years there has been a transition from the traditional presential setting. Now there is an immensely more prevalent online education prone setting. Such transition has created the need to change the way we see many things. And it has brought new challenges in terms of how to do things that were already resolved in the traditional setting.
Different systems have arisen to help instructors with their duty of teaching higher education contents. There is Blackboard, which is a general platform for online courses. And more recently, other platforms more oriented towards Math and Stats courses have arisen, such as MyStatlab, MyOpenMath, MathXl, among others.
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Can Everything Be Done Online?
One of the biggest elements that will consume man-hours has traditionally been the process of grading. Grading can be a time consuming process that is not particularly well appreciated by instructors or T.A.’s, because it is repetitive and not too mentally stimulating (Some instructors may think differently, but some informal surveying can easily help support this statement). Then, many will welcome the new online technologies, were students take tests and HW online, and there is no need for grading.
So, instructors and T.A.’s are happy, but is left for students? Well, often times not much. As many people involved in Stats tutoring would testify, students complain that online stats courses will leave them baffled and confused. They may find that hard to navigate the wealth of online resources provided to them, as they may find lack of a personal touch, something that is specifically tailored for them.
As a consequence, you will still see students looking for their MayStatLab homework answers, or their MyOpenmath answers, and they will try to rely on an online stats tutor, because they find hand to navigate the resources that are provided to them.
Automation at Grading Tests and HW’s
I find fantastic that a large portion of the grinding chores that an instructor must undertake could automated. Although, we need to consider that online certain Math or Stats classes can be automated in terms of online tests and HW’s. In such subjects it is more likely to even have systems that automatically generate content. But that is certainly different when it comes to some Social Sciences courses, on which a fully automated process is still out of reach.
But such systems do not solve everything, not even close. The current online platforms have no way to dealing automatically with Math proofs, or even with more basic forms of deductive math thinking. Only subjects that are formula-prone are those that can be automatized. But, is that the kind of content we want to give to our students in the higher education level? An education based on formulas, or we want to teach them how to properly use their brain? What do we want, having them worried about their Mystatlab answer key, obtained using formulas, or we want them to use their brains to learn how to solve real problems, with real applications.
Automation is fabulous, but it is just the beginning.