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Online courses

I am bombarded with offers of online education, learning and education. 

The use of the World Wide Web and internet for education and an alternative to face-face-face is a given.  It is part of our world and our living in the world.

It is there in all forms and content.  You can study any topic and discipline by going over weeks of online information, receiving information, listening to hours upon hours of thousands of course lecturers standing in front of a camera in their offices or in a nice place with nice scenery,  trying to excite you to take the course and convince you to buy a certificate of participation for XX $ or pounds, or Euros, or Rands, or whatever currency. 

It is a business.  And by no means an innovation. A way for lecturers to pay their bills in a world that offers academics less and less job security.   Big words. Big claims. Big intentions.

After expressing an interest to learn from existing attempts to offer online education and university courses and being picked up by Google and the browser, I am bombarded with such ads and offers of interesting - each course claims to be the most interesting and needed topic and information - online courses on every topic imaginable.

The technology is little to get excited about.  It is a way to wake up and see that you are invited to take part in the course, receiving a URL - from - or, or ... and spending hours and hours being bombarded with information and knowledge until it all just flows and lost in the space somewhere in the emptiness between your headphones.

Content matters. Methods of learning matter. The developing person matters.  The skills the person  learn to internalize and make part of his/her being matter. The application of the skills in practice matters.  Taking things apart matter. Challenging and debunking matters.  Learning to learn and deal with information, textual and verbal matters.  And acquire what is needed to be fulfilled and successful.

I am working on an online course that will enable students to actively form, test, refute, convey and transform knowledge, know how, know that, and know to, learning and development dialectically (working out contradictions and using the tension this provokes, formulating suitable questions and enquiries on topics, critically reflecting and transforming the reflections to dialogue and critical engagement with the reflections, responding to comments and critical reflections, and more).

The course offers stimuli to act upon, practice, question, rationalize and challenge, and reflect upon one's actions and practices and dialogue on it.  It aims to build confidence and ontological security in oneself, excite and challenge.

The course will be an active critical engagement and dealing with the world, textual and verbal information, ways of thinking and analysing and knowledge to actually be critical, analytical, clear, selective, challenging, questioning, communicable, dialogical, interesting and transformative.  

The course will offer the tools to practice and exercise, and evaluate and test oneself doing it, getting and providing critical feedbacks and reflecting on how one deals with critical comments, giving and receiving them.  


John Dewey and Paulo Freire about education being an activity in exercising independent, free and critical thinking, participation in dialogue, growth, enquiry, co-enquiry, problematisation and development and transformation of the community, the world and humanity.


They objected to education being a form of passive obedience training in

which information and knowledge is placed in learners by teachers.


Dewey believed in individuals taking responsibility for their own learning through critical reflection and dialogue and in educators creating conditions for this learning and educational, epistemological, and ontological transformation through critical reflection and dialogical co-enquiring.  He saw education as the process of learning how to think for oneself and to participate constructively, actively, and meaningfully in one’s community and thereby to become a significant and contributing member of one’s community.


Freire’s method of teaching a language and literacy to people who have been deprived of education involved the learners cognitively, epistemologically, and emotionally participating in their own learning. It aimed at eliciting critical consciousness among them in regard to their lives and their environment, and sought to enable their active participation in the analytic understanding of their lives. This was done with an intention to improve their lives and experiences of human dignity and autonomy. It was implemented by ensuring that the learning is relevant to and is embodied within the social and moral context of the learners’ lives.


Dewey’s theory of education talks about children learning through “participation…in the social consciousness of the race” (Dewey, 1897, p. 77). Like Freire, he advocated re-humanization and democratization of education through freedom and independence of thought and critical thinking. He also promoted the active “hands-on” and experiential educational approaches in which individuals actively interact with real objects, and critically reflect on their experiences of doing so.


This type of humanizing and democratizing education is the exact opposite of South Africa’s apartheid education, which requires a complete transformation of what was so skilfully embedded in the collective psychology of South Africans.



I have written about education as an activity in becoming and developing as a critical, challenging, challenging, engaging, refuting, explaining, enquiring co-enquiring, dialogical, reflective and communicating autonomous, independent and free person in and with the world.

Posted by Alon Serper on 01 October 2014 13:21:53

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