If you’re over 40, the internet has been an acquired taste for you, one that still feels a bit awkward compared to the pen and paper you grew up with. This is not the case for those who are under 40 years old. For them, working on the web, connecting to social media, etc., seems just as natural as texting (something we over 40s have had to adapt to). Information technology has made the world new, and the new world has brought with it a new system of education: e-learning.
Online education has been and continues to be the subject of heated debate. On the one hand, the US Department of Education analysis of 44 separate studies of online education found its learning outcomes to be equally good and, in its “hybrid” form, which combines online and traditional learning, sometimes superior to traditional education. On the other hand, critics doubt that online learning can serve as an adequate substitute for face-to-face teacher-student interaction in a physical classroom. They harbor similar doubts about the ability of online education to replicate the “university experience”.
The answers to these doubts depend on who and what one teaches. That said, I must confess that as someone who taught Plato and Aristotle at the university level for two decades, I approached the subject of online education with similar reservations. But my own experience over the past three academic years teaching political philosophy in a fully accredited doctoral program overcame most of my concerns. I still wonder if MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) can do the trick for the type of course I taught, but I confess that my reservations on this point leave open a wide range of other subjects and disciplines. where the size of the MOOCs might not dilute the learning experience.
What types of courses could it be? I guess a number of math courses and maybe other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses could do well online.
The time for speculation is over, at least as far as the viability of MOOCs as delivery systems for mathematics courses is concerned. A new training platform, PaGamOwhich was designed in Taipei City, Taiwan, has just been introduced in the United States PaGamO takes online math learning to a new level: it has turned math homework into “games”; that is, in competitive social interactions, with the aim of increasing the enjoyment of math homework for students young and old.
PaGamO is announced as the “first online social game platform for education”. But while even veterans like this writer are aware of the phenomenon of “online games”, how does this approach translate into the teaching of mathematics? The new platform follows the principles of board games such as “Risk” and “Settlers of Catan”. Students compete to build their “own realm of knowledge, wealth, and land by answering questions and solving mini-quizzes.”
In addition to improving student motivation through competition, the platform uses real-time back-end analytics to assess each student’s abilities. He then tailors the questions he asks each student based on their learning style and ability.
As a teacher, it is not difficult for me to see the benefits this program offers to instructors. In traditional classrooms of 20 or more students (and most classrooms have at least that number of students), no teacher, no matter how diligent and insightful, has the time or ability to provide individualized instruction to students who need it most. On the other hand, the PaGamO The platform provides analyzes for each student after each assignment, through which teachers can more easily assess both individual abilities and particularly difficult subjects.
For their part, the students react very favorably to their experience with this combination of play and individualized assessment. Nearly 90% of students use PaGamO report that it improved their content knowledge and accelerated their progression to more difficult math problems.
While the program has proven effective at the K-12 level as well as in higher education, its inspiration came from an online college course designed by Professor Benson Yeh of National Taiwan University. Yeh, a University of Michigan graduate and professor at National Taiwan University, first designed the game to increase his students’ motivation in the classroom. After that, he saw that PaGamO could be useful to students all over the world.
” We launched PaGamO in my probability course on Coursera with about 4,000 students, and they absolutely loved it,” Prof. Yeh said. “Our course completion rate was significantly higher than expected, and students kept asking for more problems to solve on PaGamO.”
Now that it’s launched in the US, Yeh’s goal is to make the game accessible to all teachers. “Teachers helped us shape PaGamO“, he remarked. “Now teachers in the United States can use the game in the classroom, for assigning homework, for exam preparation, and for student self-assessment and teacher assessment.”
Without a doubt, PaGamOThe initial success of won’t end the online education debate. But that could lead critics to narrow down their concerns. Mathematics courses, to say the least, seem particularly suited to this approach. Equally important, online education goes directly to where today’s students live. They increasingly live off their laptops and cell phones (and parents are having a hard time stopping them!). It is therefore more prudent to exploit the learning opportunities offered by online technology. “Gamification for education” seems to be the next step in this development.