The author of “A Plea for “Close Learning” began his teachings as an English professor at Rhodes College in 2007. Prior to joining Rhodes College, he earned a doctorate at Harvard University and recently won an award for his outstanding teaching.
Newstok begins his article highly emphasizing distance learning which made me confused from initially reading the title of his article. I had an initial impression that he was all for distance learning stating that new technologies make it possible for thousands of “students to enroll in world-class courses” (451). Newstok’s purpose for writing this article is to show us that although massive open online courses “MOOC’s” are “the future of education” (451) we still need close learning.
Newstok says that “close learning exposes the stark deficiencies of mass distance learning, such as MOOCs” (451). Close learning provides a face to face interaction with professor as well as peers whereas distance learning does not provide. He is not anti-technology but rather thinks that the ultimate goal should be to have close learning but not to eliminate technology from it. “At no stage of education does technology, no matter how novel, ever replace human attention. Close learning can’t be automated or scaled up.” (453).
The writer gives us an example of the company Yahoo, which required all employees to be in an office setting rather than at home. The CEO of the company sent a memo addressing that to be the best; all communication needs to be performed in the office where everyone is present. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together” (452).
Newstok’s plea for close learning is understandable being that he is a dedicated professor with a passion for literature; he probably enjoys the face to face discussions with his students. His style of writing is to show us that we should blend both technology into close learning and everyone would benefit. Newstok’s approach is to continue with traditional teachings and that there are values gained with close learnings. With distance learning, getting a degree seems superficial and automated. Students do not experience a classroom/campus setting but more so experience a digitalized setting. He says that there is a “low completion rate for MOOC’s (still hovering 10 percent) speak for themselves.” (453)
Newstok’s effort to persuade the audience could have been stronger. He did not rule out technology but wanted to blend it with close learning. I as a reader was not fully convinced for a full close learning curriculum for myself but I would want my children to experience a close learning curriculum. My goal is to obtain a degree as soon as possible but I’m not sure I would want the same for my children. The world today is very competitive and if you are trying to obtain a career sooner than later than distance learning is better suited for you. I wonder if Newstok wrote this article for young students who did not have a busy schedule that involved full time work or family.
Newstok, Scott L.. “ A Plea for “Close Learning.” Inside Higher Ed 11 July 2013: Writing Arguments. John D. Ramage, John C. Bean and June Johnson. 10th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2016. 451-453. Print.