Education

What Should Online Courses Do With Angry, Suicidal, Oversharing Teenagers?

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math is hard!
Credit: kovalvs / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

If a student threatens to shoot his classmates (or himself) on the online message board for his physics class, does that count as a campus threat? 

That's just one of the many questions purveyors of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are asking themselves. 

Universities have traditionally been asked to play many roles, and as the functions of those universities are disaggregated, the question of who picks up which pieces is a tough one. In truly massive online courses, like those offered by Coursera, Udacity, and huge public universities experimenting with online learning, teachers are not expected to read all the postings in a class message board. But students still act like students—fighting, falling in love, chattering about emotional problems, and generally acting in ways that would be considered inappropriate in other parts of grown up life.

Inside Higher Ed talked to some experts:

Scott Plous, a psychology professor at Wesleyan University, is preparing to teach more than 70,000 students who signed up for his class through Coursera, one of the popular MOOC providers. Plous, who worked at a Los Angeles suicide hotline before graduate school, is now trying to figure out how to monitor the message boards and deal with students who post hate speech or are threatening violence or suicide….

Plous is partially counting on self-policing by users, something he may talk about in his introductory lecture. For instance, if someone in a remote village in India is talking about suicide, Plous hopes other users from India can suggest places to go for help.

But some students (and parents) want more than that. Can online schools provide traditional student mental health services? Should they?

One thing I'm looking forward to is a disaggregation of the babysitting and educating functions performed by schools at all levels. If parents want someone to step in in loco to keep an eye on their volatile teenager, why not let them pay for that service separately?

For all the same reasons that it seems silly to pay someone with a master's degree $80,000 a year to supervise 5-year-olds at recess, it doesn't make a lot of sense to build psychological supervision into the job of a P.hD. economist trying to impart the principles of supply and demand to tens, hundreds, or millions of students. Why not try a model where 18-year-olds who want to get out the house while they pursue a degree shack up in hostels with cooks and counselors while getting their intellectual jollies from an entirely different purveyor? 

One bonus: Older students who want to enroll will not have to put up with the meddling of traditional campus institutions.

Via Tyler Cowen.

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  1. COMMENT PR0N!

  2. Instead of threatening to kill his classmates, the kid in that photo should threaten to kill his barber. Yeesh!

  3. …figure out how to monitor the message boards and deal with students who post hate speech or are threatening violence or suicide…

    If they want to be like a real university, they should focus on policing the hate speech.

  4. You give them a little knife, and then tell them to go out and cut a nice hickory switch and bring it back to you. When they come back, you wear their ass out with cut switch. Snowflake justice, baby.

  5. Obviously tort lawyers have identified this online learning industry as something they can consume.

  6. What to do with angry, suicidal, oversharing teenagers?

    Give ’em jobs at Gawker and/or Huff Po, duh.

  7. Drone the living daylight out of ’em.

    A drone can do an IP address lookup in real time and just execute a surgical strike on the apartment or house where the hate originates from.

    1. Well I would argue that an IP address look up isn’t very accurate, but neither are drones. So that point is moot.

      1. Collateral damage.

        If foreigners can be that, and Americans can be droned without trial, then Americans are OK to be collateral damage, too.

        Anyhow, I intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but maybe I shouldn’t give ideas to the powers-to-be.

  8. Can online schools provide traditional student mental health services? Should they?

    No. No.

    Next.

  9. Plous, who worked at a Los Angeles suicide hotline before graduate school, is now trying to figure out how to monitor the message boards and deal with students who post hate speech or are threatening violence or suicide….

    He should ask us.

    “Come and get me, Copper! I’m heavily armed, and I know where you live!”

    1. They are all whathisname Dorner now…

  10. That’s just one of the many questions purveyors of massively open online courses, or MOOCs

    Thats what we used to call the HS dropout guys around the neighborhood.

    1. Joey ‘Clams’ Scala: [Joey interupts] We’re not payin’, because this guy, this guy’s a fuckin’ mook.
      Jimmy: But I didn’t say nothin’.
      Joey ‘Clams’ Scala: And we don’t pay mooks.
      Jimmy: Mook? I’m a mook?
      Joey ‘Clams’ Scala: Yeah
      Jimmy: What’s a mook?
      Johnny Boy: A mook, what’s a mook?
      Tony DeVienazo: I don’t know…
      Johnny Boy: What’s a mook?
      Jimmy: You can’t call me a mook!
      Joey ‘Clams’ Scala: I can’t?
      Jimmy: No…
      Joey ‘Clams’ Scala: [pause] I’ll give you mook!

  11. Actual photo caption: “Charles Pierce’s Mini-Me”

  12. I think online education is beneficial after an age of 16. As at this level, students are capable of understand the advantages of e-Learning. And they can utilize the positive aspects of online courses.
    Such as courses for online MBA programs are better and efficient than online middle school courses.

  13. Thanks for writing this article. Over sharing is a big problem with young people. We write about it extensively at uKnowKids, and we have compiled a huge collection of digital parenting resources that can be very helpful to parents. You can read more on the subject here… http://resources.uknowkids.com/oversharing/. Hopefully, this will be useful to you. I also highly recommend parents check out the uKnowKids parental intelligence service (http://www.uknowkids.com). Parenting is obviously hard, and uKnowKids helps to make digital parenting easier and keep kids safe online on the mobile phone. Good luck!

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