The Internet as an Educational Tool

Time was, we thought that people, students, who wanted answers to questions, could come to our office hours, ask, and be answered.

Then we thought that these people could pose these questions to bulletin boards and forums on the Internet, and get answers from all sorts of people, answers which were at least as good as, and maybe even better than, what they could get from us in our office hours.

How wrong we were! For an example of what happens when someone like me attempts to answer a question as if it were posed as a technical question to me during my office hours, see this thread on PPRuNe.

For background, “BOAC” is an experienced, wise, and mostly thoughtful pilot flew Lightnings for the RAF (a wonderful and singular machine, indeed the only aircraft which demonstrated it could outperform Concorde) and most recently Boeing 737 machines. “Pugilistic Animus” is someone who in my estimation has at least a graduate’s grasp of aerodynamics, and likely more – hard for me to tell (but he could, if he chose).

In traditional educational circles such as I have experienced since the 1970’s, the questioner would have posed the question, it would be answered as per my reply, and everyone would have gone back relatively satisfied to whatever they were doing. Handling the question via the forum, and parrying the denigrations so that the questioner, if heshe was still reading, could be more or less satisfied that the original answer was trustworthy, seems to have taken me at least four times as long, and who knows what the questioner makes of the interactions.

So, what conclusion do you, the reader, draw for the future of education via open Internet discussion forums? Please let me know, for I would dearly like it to work somehow, but this example does not give me hope.


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