Teachers, Tutors, Mentors, and Monitors –The range of involvement of educators in online/blended learning

On many hiring surveys, employers ask their potential employees how self-directed they are.  This is a question that resides with the employee, who they are and how they operate.  The same is true of students.  A good coordinator of services who wants to enroll a student in a class needs to ask themselves and the student how self directed the student is, before determining the placement.

Online/Blended learning comes in a variety of flavors, a range if you will of how educator involved the course will be.  In some courses for example, there is a teacher, a true teacher who creates assignments, works directly with students, modifies curriculum to meet individual needs, and presents and assesses content. In some courses, there is no teacher.  There is a computer.  The complete extent of educator involvement is that someone a monitor is assigned the task of checking off that the student presented some documentation of complete.  This person is often a librarian/media specialist or guidance counselor with zero content knowledge.  The website (or app) is programmed with if/then functionality which determines what parts of the course a student must complete or repeat based on test scores and auto-graded assignments.  Then there are examples of both teacher-led and monitored courses which are supplemented with tutors. Tutors are typically broad knowledge experts who are not involved in the course design and implementation but do interact with the student on a content specific basis.  Mentors bridge the range between monitor and tutor.  They are again not involved in the course design and implementation and range in content knowledge and oversight capacity from implementation to implementation.

Many policy makers are trying to decide which is the best model.  The answer quite simply in the United States is all of them.  Now I know you might be asking why country matters, in truth it doesn’t, except that as a philosophy held since the Ben Franklin days we believe in the value of an educated voter populace. So it stands to reason that since people are different, and have different levels of self-directedness, if we want them all to be educated we must offer a range of educator involement to reach them all.

Here’s the catch: Teachers, even as lowpaid as they are, cost money. Using the business model of lowest bidder wins, teachers will never be in the equation.  The solution is a different business model. The bid should be based on highest demostrable educational achievement as our currency.  In this model, we consider cost as a factor amongst equal methods, but method efficacy is first and foremost in the evaluation.

This then begs the question – how can efficacy by measured? I would argue that success might be only measurable on an individual basis.  Students are not to be mass produced. So the answer again is keep all methods available for the best results.  Education is not a numbers game…or at least it shouldn’t be.

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