With the current discussions in the education field regarding online learning, e-collaborate interviewed Galen Godbey, one of the nation’s leading practitioners of educational collaboration and a professor of online courses at Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus.  Godbey finds the online learning system to be a great method to reach non-traditional students, as well as globalizing the classroom since students can log-in from any part of the world.   Many of his students are older, have families, and are taking classes on top of a full time job. With the responsibilities and time restrictions that these students face, online learning is their only practical option and many would be unable to continue on in higher education without being able to participate virtually. Godbey also finds these students highly motivated since they are taking additional work on top of an already hectic schedule, which makes for a great learning environment.

The courses are a combination of readings, essays, and online discussions that are conducted through posting and responding to classmate’s comments. These are the traditional methods of online learning. Godbey believes that we are just at the beginning of this movement in education reform. As he noted in our interview, many countries with limited resources are not opening the standard brick and mortar school because it is more cost affordable to build online campuses and allows them to offer educational opportunities to a greater portion of the population. He believes this trend will continue to grow as access to technology increases. For example, in India only 20 percent of the population has regular access to computers/internet and many villages do not yet have electricity. However, as India continues to develop, more and more people will be connected online and this will open doors to allow them to gain an education through online learning. The impact this could have on the development of the Global South is enormous.

While there are many benefits to an online model, there are still some hesitations and concerns regarding it. For one, there is concern from teachers that their job will become obsolete, but this is not the case. Teachers are still needed and play an integral role in leading discussions and exposing students to new material in a challenging way. Also, students do not have the same opportunity to meet and engage with their peers. However, Godbey has seen through his classes that students still build these relationships; it is just different than the relationships made in traditional classrooms. His students work together on assignments, they are encouraged to reach out to other students for help with coursework, and they engage with one another in online discussions. This is where it becomes important for the teacher to play a role in building a strong sense of an online community among students. There are plenty of opportunities to form a relationship and get to know other students. The uniqueness of this is that these relationships can form between students living in the US and Germany, for example, or the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. These are opportunities that students otherwise would not have and it makes their education global, something desperately needed in today’s global world.

In concluding the interview, Godbey astutely commented that there is a need for people to “grow up global” since the future will be driven by geographic and human diversity. Technology is the most effective tool in doing this and educators must be open to this form of online instruction to prepare students for the future.

 

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