Skip to navigationSkip to content

Wake up, MOOCs: Even before the internet, students excelled at making excuses

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam
Before mobiles, there were televisions, radios, comic books. So when have students not had distractions?
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Todd Tauber’s piece last week on the need for online learning to innovate and meet the changing needs of students drew many responses. Here’s one from an educator:

I am not convinced by this idea that schools need to find a way of “…fitting education into the way people actually learn now” because I don’t think people learn differently now than they did 50 years ago. Neurologically, we’re the same. The excuses for not getting work done have changed, but students have always excelled at making excuses.

People don’t finish their online courses because they aren’t disciplined enough or because they signed on for more than they could chew. It is valid to update how schools format their classes. After all, there is always room for improvement. It is equally valid for students to realize that their smartphone will probably be a distraction, just like TV was in my day. But just like I chose not to have a television set in my dorm room because I knew it would keep me from my work, students now have to figure out ways to not be distracted by their smartphones and Twitter accounts.

Another issue with online education, especially free courses, is that the barrier to entry is so low, anyone can enter. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s human nature to get all excited about a course in the moment. Once the work starts, it’s harder to stick to it. If more people sign on, more people will drop out. However, we’re looking at it all the wrong way if we blame this problem on the false idea that we all learn differently now. Whether we’re using a dusty textbook or a snazzy Galaxy Tab, learning takes discipline, commitment and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.