McGraw Hill Education Lab

In 2013, I wrote a series of blog posts about online learning for an exploratory group at McGraw Hill.


Introduction to online learning. The mid-nineteenth century style of in-classroom instruction — one teacher for every twenty-five or thirty students — is a model that can only educate a manageable number of people. What about the hundreds of millions of people who are leaving behind low-tech rural economies, once represented by countries such as China, India and Brazil, for high-tech urban centers?

Bringing the benefits of technology to educationOur goal is to investigate educational technology to see what works – whether the technology is new, old, consumer-based or business-to-business.

How to enter the impenetrable forest of doom and live to tell about it. If we educators and publishers speak without understanding how students make decisions, memorize, pay attention and engage in many other individual and interactive learning behaviors, we will be hard-pressed to predict with any accuracy what pedagogies and technologies will bring about the desired result — whatever that may be.

What is authentic learning in a digital environment? Despite the many answers that are lighting up the Twitterverse — mostly with endorsements of commercial learning “suites” — surveys, studies and news accounts are telling us that the online education industry is simply too young and too inexperienced to have come up with a fail-safe system for educating students from kindergarten through college.

In the beginning was motivation. The students, teachers, administrators and state regulators who have come to find the various standards-based accountability systems problematic could fill Yankee Stadium.

Turning abstract knowledge into intuition we can use. The learning patterns students are expected to acquire from their textbooks and tests are radically disconnected from the wider adult world that school originally meant for us to live in.

Why can’t schools be more like Whole Foods? Whole Foods curates a seemingly unlimited array of cheeses, meats and “alternative” health products. Can we create an educational system that curates an unlimited curriculum of math, science, English, history and music?

The future of content. Practically speaking, how do we create a digital learning environment that motivates students to learn?

Compensating authors and other content producers for their work. Without a rational payment system to compensate authors and other content providers, online learning will sink under the weight of copyright infringement and unfair labor practices.

Online learning in the classroom cannot work without teachers. Teachers and teachers unions understandably worry that technology will do to education what it already has done to journalism and the music business: “Disintermediate” the human beings who were the heart and soul of those industries.

Last updated on December 7, 2014


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