Vivek Haldar

The Interested Minority

Apart from the scale and the economics, another reason that online teaching (like Udacity, OCW, Coursera etc) will take over is beginning to dawn on me.

The instructors are going to enjoy it more.

Why? Don’t they prefer the live interaction of a classroom, the feel of chalk on board?

No. If you think about it, classroom teaching, especially at the university level, has been steadily declining in quality. The professor comes in and rattles off a stock deck of slides off their laptop. The students all have their laptops open, web surfing.

It’s unenjoyable for the students, because they’re just sitting there, postponing the learning (or cramming) until finals week or the the day before the assignment is due. It’s painful for the professor, because they have to look out into a sea of disinterested people. Once in a blue moon, a sharp, interested student will really engage with the teacher and the material and make it worthwhile.

The interested minority is drowned by the passive majority.

But look what happens when the material is online. The teacher only hears and engages with the interested students, and there are a lot more of them. That is so much more motivating. The forums, the email, the blogs, the tweets, the questions, the corrections—they’re all from the interested minority. But it feels like they’re the only ones there.

Suddenly, the interested minority is is in control.