Online courseware can help students develop strong independent study skills, while eliminating an unnecessary authority figure who may harbor personal biases. But as John Milton said almost 400 years ago, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience.” Part of the greatness of the college classroom is the space it provides for riveting discussions.
Though some more traditional professors still fail to take advantage of this space, choosing to lecture and keep students quiet, most humanities professors in my experience allowed a great deal of discourse and were always excited to see a good debate forming.
But students independently taking online courseware sometimes lack a space for group discussions. Of course, not all subjects require debate. What’s there to argue about in physics? But for many online courseware subjects–especially the humanities–the space for dialogue is essential for critical thinking.
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