Learning Today: The Lasting Value of Place
The main point of this essay by Joseph E. Aoun is that while many universities and colleges are offering more classes (and degrees) online, there are other worthy educational innovations that are taking place around the world. “Diversity of delivery systems is a major development” as higher education experiments with new ways to offer education (Aoun, 2011).
For example, the author is saying that “place” will always matter, and that notwithstanding the convenience of distance education, “place-based education” cannot necessarily be replaced (or “replicated,” as Aoun explains) in a virtual environment (p. 3). One main problem with online education is that students “are physically isolated from each other,” and in an educational setting it is important for students to be able to share their perspectives, their viewpoints, their disagreements — in a “physical classroom” (Aoun, p. 3).
Moreover, when students are learning in a real “place” they don’t stop learning when the class is finished because they can form study groups, have “discussion sessions” along with informal dialogue, and go one-on-one regarding what the assignment and subject is that they are involved with. And when it comes to diversity, when you’re tackling a deep topic, perhaps a controversial topic, through distant education, you’re not getting a chance to share your ideas with a diversity of students.
There won’t be a student from China, or from India or Bangladesh sitting next to you to share his or her perspective. The online student is sitting along at a computer, without the exposure to diversity that place-based education offers (Aoun, p. 32). As Aoun explains on page 3, there is a “global dimension” to place-based higher learning institutions; faculty and fellow students hail from many different places on the planet, and it is those interactions and relationships that help open the eyes of students to the universal nature of knowledge acquisition.
Why did I choose this article? I believe there is value in taking online courses, especially for students who have to work a certain number of hours each day to survive. The convenience of being able to complete assignments and readings in the comfort of one’s home is definitely a positive aspect of distance education. But, as Aoun explains on page 4, having a faculty member provide one-on-one real-time tutelage is a huge advantage over emailing a faculty member in an online setting. Also, I agree with Aoun when he writes that part of the process of education is “social engagement and interpersonal development”; and when a student is enrolled in a place-based campus, the activities and campus organizations can become as vital to the socialization of the student as the classes that student takes (p. 4).
This article relates to my life. Aoun hits the nail on the head on page 4 of his essay when he talks about “chance encounters” in a place-based educational setting. It is a “subtle but vital” (and positive) situation when I happen to run into a lecturer, or a bright student from one of my classes, or someone from my major who is about to graduate. I have had the opportunity to learn and grow from people I have met in those “chance encounters”; I have always worked hard to be a good listener, and in place-based educational environments there are all kinds of opportunities to relate to and learn from real people with strong opinions and solid knowledge. Whether I meet them in the cafeteria, the student center, on the lawn in front of the administration building — or elsewhere — befriending someone who is from a culture quite diverse from my own is a learning opportunity for me.
Is this article useful in a formal research essay? Absolutely this article has viewpoints that stimulate thought. Students are supposed to learn how to critically analyze issues and find opposing positions while also learning to solve problems. This essay is thought provoking and it may even be considered controversial, since so much positive praise has been heaped upon distance education. But the author carefully points out that both formats provide good opportunities for students, and it is only a matter of what fits best for any student. The ultimate challenge is for students to learn and be ready for the “real world” upon graduation.
Aoun, Joseph E. “Learning Today: the Lasting Value of Place.” The Chronicle of Higher
Education. Retrieved February 6, 2015, from http://theacademiclife.com. 2011.
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