On-Line Learning

Maya Taya Arie & Shlomo Maital



As millions of children and college students are learning on-line, as schools and universities close, this blog will address key issues related to online education.

   Our first key point: This is not about online teaching, it is about online learning. That is, a client-centered approach that focuses on the learning and the learner, not on the teacher.   With wide access to search technology, children and students are increasingly able to learn and discover facts on their own.   The role of educators has changed greatly – from teaching, to facilitating learning.    That should be the focus of online education.

   Shlomo Maital is a retired Technion professor, specializing in innovation and creativity; Maya Taya Arie is his grand-daughter and a student studying social studies with a focus on management, sociology and political science at Bar Ilan University.

   Maya asks: How can a teacher teach an entire class online, and still retain the students’ attention?

   Response (Maital):   I taught my first distance-learning class at MIT in 1995. My students were Argentinean engineers, in three cities, La Plata, Buenos Ares and Mendoza.

   The technology was: a broadcast studio at MIT, with video signal sent by Internet to Argentina. The connection was often broken, restored, broken again – but the Argentinean engineers were very patient, and the session was quite interactive, with students raising their hand, acknowledged by the lecturer, asked a question, and received an answer.

     I had a wonderful producer named Elizabeth Derienzo. This is very important – MIT realized from the earliest days of distance teaching that this was a production, not a lecture. Elizabeth stood behind the TV camera, and constantly motioned to me, “high energy, high energy”.   Because – when you teach in a classroom, you have at least some of the students who are ‘with you’, who respond with facial expressions, who interrupt, ask questions, engage..and this brings energy to the classroom. In a sterile studio, there is none of that. So — I constantly raised my own energy level, in my voice and body language, at Elizabeth’s request, because if the lecturer is bored and asleep, the students will be, too. And let’s face it, many lecturers, sitting in front of a boring screen, think to themselves that they would rather be doing something else – and lack the enormous nuclear energy that a classroom can provide.

     Conclusion: Online instructors — remind yourself constantly, high energy. Modulate your voice, dynamics, up, down, project interest and passion. Passion! And above all, even when (especially when) you do not feel much like teaching online — Act! Pretend. Put on a show. Because online education is indeed a show, and like actors who perform even when ill, or tired, at a high level, so must we educators.

     This is Rule #1.  High Energy. Passion. And convey it to your students. Genuine, great. If not – Pretend.