Thursday, May 31, 2007

Online/ Night School at Yeshiva University or Stern

Several people have asked whether Yeshiva University or Stern have any type of night school or online school. As of now, to the best of my knowledge, they do not. But I was thinking about that and wondered whether they would consider the idea. Of course, to consider it, the venture would have to be profitable. From my point of view, having online school would allow:
    1. People in closed communities to learn more about the ideas or philosophies that they have perhaps been misinformed about (in the privacy of their own home. Of course, if they don't have access to the Internet, that's another problem.)

    2. People in other countries (who cannot come to America for financial reasons or who simply do not wish to do so) to study

    3. People who have graduated but wish to continue to study (working people, perhaps) to continue to have the option to take classes
Now, YU does have YU, but this is a lecture site rather than an interactive teaching program. One downloads the lecture and listens to it but one does not have a mentor or professor to guide you or otherwise answer your questions or ideas.

If one attended an online class, however, people could do several things- they could all have to buy webcams and hook up to an actual class, able to watch the professor lecture in real time, if they so wished. They could hook up to ask questions of the professor in private chat rooms (that forbid entry to others.) They could email the professor and expect answers. This would be a way to teach and guide those who otherwise not have a way in which to learn this material due to community, geographical location or life circumstances.

Now, there are several cons to this idea. First off, I don't think people would much like the fact that they could get a major from Stern or YU by blood, sweat and tears at the actual school and others (paying much less, because you could forget the cafeteria costs, dorming costs and so on), paying much less, could get an equivalent major. So if one were truly able to major in classes online, it would have to be somehow different, an alternative major. Secondly, while this would be nice of the school, it wouldn't necessarily be profitable. How many people would be interested in night school or online school?

(Of course, even if one were attending online school, there would have to be an application process. I'm not quite sure how online school, works; how do they determine that you are doing the work rather than anyone else doing the work for you? Then again, I'm not quite sure how correspondence classes work either. Perhaps someone could clarify.)

So what do you think? Is there a need for online/ night school of some kind? Any more pros or cons to add? Do you think people would participate in this? Would you participate in this?


Anonymous said...

How would you propose the dual curriculum aspect of this?
Ignoring that issue for now, YU already could be a part time night school for someone willing to only take the classes available in the evening (not the 3 pm or 4:30 classes). Accomidating a part time night school crowd would, therefore, seem pretty easy.
Regarding online classes, I am sure YU would love to do this but the faculty logistics would be it is, YU is on a hiring frenzy. To accomidate the many additional teachers required (and still maintain a semblance of academic credibility) would be a real challenge, especially in the Judaic Studies depts.

Anonymous said...

On the topic--it's already possible to conduct a class online via Angel. On the Thursday after Pesach, I had a class that met in a chatroom on Angel. It was pretty successful.

Ilana-Davita said...

Thanks for this post. First I recognize myself in the three categories you mentioned, albeit with a slight difference concerning the first one.
1. I live in a small (not closed) comunity with rare services, no rabbi and few people that are either observant and/or willing to learn.
2. I live abroad and cannot afford to go back to studying.
3. I graduated twenty years ago and now work.

I understand your resevations about the scheme you suggest but maybe this could be solved by having a different type of classes. That's why I used the term online courses.
YU could design a series of online courses on different subjects, which would be paid independently, and would not be the equivalent of a major. More like independent credits.
Finally, as concerns the organisation, I suppose there could be online video classes which would be downloadable as well as pdf documents and a bibliography to work on. In addition each student could easily contact the teacher just like another ordinary student.
What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Since I'm not much of a fan of online schools, I don't really think YU should start it.

While I hear about points Ilana-Davita and others make, and I sympathize, I still think that having class outside of the classroom defeats the purpose of true learning. Once the interaction between people becomes purely virtual, you lose half of the real learning experience! Because now we are reduced to computer screens and are at the mercy of mouses and monitors. A person is no longer a person as much as an image on the computer screen: turn off the monitor, and the person is gone. You can't do that to a real teacher (or else many students would surely live happier lives! :-) ).

Not to mention the classroom environment, which makes up a huge part! Learning with others what makes learning in a school so different than tutoring or home-schooling. It is part and parcel to gaining from others, not only in what they say but in how they say it. Talking to others online may still be talking, but it's lost it's tone and charm of real vocal communication. The whole experience just becomes--well, virtual reality.

So my point is that while online learning may be very practical, it loses so much of what makes real learning--well, real. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, but when all is said and done, online learning just doesn't feel right.

That being said, I really think night classes would be a good option because those aspects of learning are not lost, just rechanneled into a different time of day.

anonymous mom said...

Thank you for addressing one of my dreams as I eluded to in an earlier post. As Ilana-Davita suggests, it could be for non-degree credit, video classes with opportunities to communicate with the teacher. To Anon 6:06, many of us who may be interested in this and fall into the category of those who live near Stern have young children or are working full time or both. I certainly cannot go to night school at this point in my life. Online courses are wonderful for people like us. If it's financially profitable for the school and the enrolled students could be limited then I don't see the problem other than the staffing which was mentioned by anon 12:49. It's a doable dream, I think. I hope it comes to pass. I also think that somewhere out there is a philanthropic individual, possibly a woman, who will see great value in privately subsidizing this venture in some way.

Chaya Esther said...

The problem of getting a Major w/o blood/sweat etc... is resolved the same way it is at regular colleges, a) the college is bringing in $ it otherwise wouldnt this benefits everyone

b) the quality of your education is obviously different if it is in person as opposed to online. Someone who went to Harvard online is never going to be the same as someone who went to Harvard, however not everyone is able to go to Harvard, so at least its something, and Harvard still benefits..

As for the exams, online courses I took, they know you did the work becuse you go to a nearby library where the exam is proctored. As for papers, even conventional students can pay someone else to write them if they are so inclined.

But in my conversation with you a few days ago, I wasnt necessary talking about getting a degree, just being able to take classes and benefit from Stern without actually going there and getting a "Shem" that I go there as that would adversely affect my social status in my community as well as Shidduch possibilities...

anonymous mom said...

Chaya Esther, I don't know you, but if you are pursuing something that does not jive with your "Shidduch possibilities", then are your Shidduch possibilities appropriate for you? I've been there (20 years ago) and I did not date the right people for me. This was a big mistake. There are wonderful boys out there who will be Mat'im for you and they are not the boys who would reject you for your choice of Stern. Their parents would be fine with it too. I never knew that at 19. Didn't know a soul who went to Stern so had no clue what it was and what that world was, just knew it was there and that's it. Wish I had pursued it in all facets of my life. My two cents at 12:30 A.M.

Erachet said...

I think a night school would be more profitable than an online school. A night school would provide those who need to work during the day with the opportunity to study and get a degree at night.

With an online school, it could be nice if students can take online classes, but it might not be fair if you could actually earn an entire degree just by taking classes online. Maybe those classes could even no be counted in the classes taken on campus, since you're probably not actually 'on campus' if you take an online class, so while it probably wouldn't be like transfer credits, you would still only be allowed to take a certain amount of them. I don't know. That might work. There are definitely benefits to online classes. Or even just during the summer as a sort of program.