A University Professor’s Perspective on Online Learning | John Watson | 4 Min Read

We sometimes look to post-secondary education to inform our perspectives on digital learning in the K-12 landscape. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reminds us why this approach can be so valuable and should be required reading for policymakers requiring that all students must be back to f2f learning in the fall. Although this article describes a Harvard professor’s experience with remote learning, much of it applies to K-12 teaching and learning as well. It also demonstrates why the shift to good online teaching and learning is often so hard for experienced teachers and professors.

Why an Active-Learning Evangelist Is Sold on Online Teaching describes Professor Eric Mazur, a “seasoned expert on effective teaching strategies” whose class “is built around project-based learning, group work, and peer-to-peer instruction.”

Let’s begin with the startling conclusion: after shifting his course to be online, he says:

the results are in and he’s convinced: online teaching is better. Not in all circumstances, to be sure. But in his applied-physics courses, students showed larger learning gains and felt more supported than students had in in-person classes. In fact, they appear to have learned so much more effectively in this new…

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John Watson

As Evergreen’s founder and primary researcher, John Watson is responsible for conducting, writing, and presenting research as well as providing testimony on digital learning matters to state boards of education, legislatures, and charter school commissions. He has extensive knowledge and experience based on his two decades working in online learning and education technology. This background has afforded him a wide-reaching network across the spectrum of education professionals, policymakers, and subject matter experts as well as the ability to provide insightful, dimensional analysis and recommendations. After earning his MBA and a MS in natural resource policy at the University of Michigan, John went to work for one of the first Learning Management System companies, eCollege, in early 1998. He launched eCollege’s K-12 division, called eClassroom, and managed eClassroom’s research and business development. This experience was the springboard for John’s independent consulting in environmental policy and education which evolved into what Evergreen Education Group is today. John is deeply moved by stories of students and teachers who have been positively impacted by technology in classrooms, online courses, and innovative schools. He strives to tell these stories accurately and to clearly explain the challenges inherent with digital learning in order to bring an honest, balanced perspective to Evergreen’s insight and recommendations. His ability to approach research and relationships with consideration for bias and hierarchy makes him a natural connector between information and people. John has presented and led panel discussions at numerous conferences and convenings. In addition to his research for Evergreen, John writes regularly about various issues related to digital learning and is a contributing author of the Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. His and Evergreen’s work has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Education Week, and eSchool News, and he has also appeared on NBC Nightly News.