Richard Mayer writes a very sensible article in eLearn Magazine that captures many of the problems surrounding the current buzz about online education. In a few sentences he reminds us that if online teaching and education is going to be successful, then it will need to fit the ways in which learning occurs. His answer to the question of whether "video" is better than "text" nicely illustrates the point that it is not the medium one uses that matters, but how the medium is used to support to learning. Online teaching and learning needs to be built on our theories and research about how people learn. There is much hype about today's students learning different than students in the past. Despite the talk there is relatively little to suggest that humans learn much different today than twenty years ago-- perhaps even a 1000 years ago.
The real opportunity afforded by online learning is that we can build more flexible, adaptive and robust learning environments for people. The sad part is that most of today's online teaching does not incorporate much of what we know about how people learn. It remains lecture and multiple choice testing. We can do better.