16 October 2009

3 Students Who Prefer Online Lectures

More 17 October: Students learn better online
The [free college lecture videos] are livelier than textbooks. They provide the sense of a human touch, though they lack the interactivity of a tutor. But mainly they're free and available 24 hours a day. Some students say they prefer the free videotaped lectures to the live lectures they are paying for at their own institutions. Others say they use the online talks to focus on topics they didn't quite get when they first heard them in their own courses. And some high-school students use them to get a jump on material they will encounter when they get to college.

The three students profiled here show the different reasons students turn to free online lectures from institutions they may never actually attend. _Chronicle
When it comes to learning difficult concepts and subjects, having a variety of learning materials can make the difference between failure and success. Many college and university lecturers are not interested in making the material interesting, or in helping students understand. Students need to be able to find other lecturers, other approaches to the subject matter in order to get around the many immediate conceptual obstacles that usually spring up when trying to learn new concepts, new jargon.
Ms. Malaguit says her anatomy professor at San Bernardino was a nightmare. He was hard to understand. He went off on tangents. And he was inflexible about assignments and grades.

So she found someone else to teach her. She turned to a set of free online video lectures by Marian C. Diamond, a professor of anatomy and neuroscience at the University of California at Berkeley. Ms. Malaguit says those videos became her "lifeline" as she struggled to keep up with the course she was enrolled in. "She is way clearer, and she stays on topic and cites examples related to the subject," the student says of the Berkeley professor. "I was desperate to learn."

...Aditya Rajagopalan was taking courses from Yale University professors while still in high school.

As part of an independent study last year at Choate Rosemary Hall, Mr. Rajagopalan watched all the lectures from a game-theory course taught by Benjamin Polak, a professor of economics at Yale, one of several professors at the university whose lectures are free online.

The student watched one or two videos on his own each week for homework, and then during class he and the other students in the independent-study group would "present what we had learned and talk about the problems we were struggling with," he says.

A mathematics teacher at Choate led the discussions and occasionally brought in an economics teacher to weigh in as well.

..."There were times when I'd come home and I would be on the verge of crying because I just could not grasp it," recalls Heather Greene-Smith, who will graduate in May with an associate degree from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

What helped make the concepts click were online lecture videos by Mehran Sahami, a Stanford University associate professor known for a teaching style filled with empathy, humor, and props. Ms. Greene-Smith found his work when a professor at her two-year college asked the class to watch a video and write about it. _Chronicle
The students above used free online lecture videos as supplements to their bricks and mortar classes. But in addition to free lecture videos, one can find free tutorials, textbooks, lecture notes, audio lectures, journal publications, book outlines, and a wide range of other supplementary educational materials that can help clarify and elaborate upon classroom ideas that may not be completely clear in the students' minds.

A useful collection of links: Take Any Class for Free, is a useful resource for anyone who wants to expand his use of the internet for education.

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