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MOOCs – Do We Know What We Are Getting Ourselves Into?

After reading many articles that said  MOOCs (massive open online courses)  are being used for both high school courses, university  course,  and university degrees,  I began to think of  MOOCs like  fast food. To begin with everyone can afford them. Next, it sounds very promising and delicious because of the  hunger for accessible education. Most importantly,  just like fast food,  too much of it is not healthy.  You might be wondering how can MOOCs be unhealthy? Well, I will tell you.

1. What is so wrong with repeatedly  having  adolescents or adults in front of a computer with full internet access for long hours?       >>>Overuse of computers can cause Neurological damage to the brain,  damage the eyes,  and result in internet addiction.

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2. What happens when we choose to test the academic knowledge of students  online  without any supervision?                                         >>>Academic misconduct happens.

3. What happens when a  student  becomes so bored with their studies that they  decide to check their  Facebook for only  two minutes, and that two minutes end up turning into 2 hours?                         >>> MOOCs students will need access to a computer and internet. This will allow them to have access to unlimited Distractions, resulting in the  neglect of their studies.

We have to take these concerns seriously because we are imperfect humans. Were not going to evolve into perfect studious individuals, or ergonomic individuals to accommodate our new learning environment. Therefore we have to question MOOCs, because at the end of the day,  us and our children will be the ones affected by them.

So, are MOOCs as good as they seem, or will they just raise a generation of students who have no skills because they got through school by cheating. Even worse will the student of the future develop health problems related to too much computer use.

Am I Overreacting???

Nope!! MOOCs are growing every year. Venture capitalists invest into firms that offer MOOCs. They invested $600 million in 2012, and $21.1 million in 2013.   Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) invested  $60 million into launching their own MOOCs provider, edX. The largest provider of MOOCs, Coursera, hired the former president of Yale as it’s CEO.

MOOCs are growing so fast that traditional universities feel threatened by them, and  as a result  offer their own courses through MOOCs.  Some universities  have started offering degrees through MOOCs. They are Antioch University, which  is offers a blended Bachelor’s degree, and  Georgia Tech  which is  offering a Masters in Computer Science.  On the other hand, the student themselves are trying to earn degrees by taking the courses needed for that degree.

Universities in Finland, India, Canada, France, Ireland, and U.K. are offering MOOCs.  World wide MOOCs consists of more than 1200 courses,  10 million students, and more than 1300  instructors.

So What?

In the future it is inevitable that MOOCs will function just like regular universities, and therefore offer more degrees. When the time for that comes, there will be issues with academic misconduct, internet addiction, internet distractions, and of course  damage to both the eyes and the brain due to the  overuse of  computers. I have hyperlinked many articles in the introduction of this blog that explains how too much computer usage can harm individuals.  Some of the health hazards include:

  1. Nerve damage –Peripheral Neuropathy in particular carpal tunnel syndrome that results from the constant usage of the hands and wrists

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2. Computer Vision Syndrome due to the lengthy stares at the computer screen

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3. For high school students  overuse of the internet causes atrophy of the grey matter in the brain.  This causes concentration and memory complications.

4. For everyone else too much internet use can  damage the structure of the brain

As for MOOCs computers causing  distraction and internet addiction,  Dr. Kimberly Young, who is the executive director for  the center for online addiction, says Internet addiction amongst students occur when the following nine conditions are available:

  1. Unlimited internet access
  2. Free unregulated time
  3. Lack of supervision
  4. No restrictions on the students’ online activity
  5. Professors Advising students to  use the resources available  on the internet
  6. Previous addiction to entertainment such as video games
  7. The need to escape the stress of studies
  8. The lack of friends to socialize with offline
  9. High drinking age in society, therefore drinking is replaced by internet use.

As can be seen  MOOCs are the breeding for the above nine conditions. Internet addiction will cause students to neglect their studies, and personal and family life . Then, the feelings of guilt and lack of success in their lives will cause the students to  fall into depression.

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Cheating?

Currently  MOOCs  students cheat on their school work.  Nothing major is being done to stop them. Even though Coursera is making students take a pledge that they will not cheat, students still cheat.  It is very easy to cheat on online courses.  We already know that for online courses,  student can write the midterm with a group of other students, and share the midterm questions with one another. Likewise if students have the old midterm, and the old midterm is the same as the current midterm, they can just copy out the answers from the old midterm. Even worse they can get someone else to the course for them in their name.  This may get the student a good mark but at the end of the day they will not learn anything.

What is the solution?

As mentioned above  humanity is not going to evolve into creatures that will be immune to all the hazards of over internet use; nor will they become fully ethical individual, and stop cheating.

All the material for MOOCs are online. The only way to avoid the above conflicts with computer use,  is to provide the students with physical textbooks, notes, and exam them in a supervised environment. This seems very unlikely since this will add to the cost of running the MOOCs. Ergonomic computers, and software that monitors and controls the internet use of students can also be considered, but this again will add to the costs of using and operating MOOCs.  This cost might be transferred to students. The cost maybe minimal for first world students, but it will be too much for students in developing nations. MOST UNFORTUNATELY,  students will find a way around the software.

So are MOOCs really worth the risks they come with? I say YES for developing countries since they really need it. But with caution for first world countries. First world countries already suffer from many issues with their computer usage. It is not necessary to amplify those issues.  What do you think????

 

 

 

 

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First Year University Students Must go on Solitude

So-la what?

Solitude. As Oprah Winfrey stated, solitude is a vacation for the souls. As for a more scientific definition from psychology today: solitude is choosing to be alone. While alone one ponders upon, reflects, questions, and analyses themselves, and their way of life in a positive manner.

While learning about solitude, I was amazed at how beneficial  solitude was for mental health. I had personally experienced it’s benefits last year when I would regularly escape the stress of university life in solitude. I did not know that I  was being in a state of solitude. I was just doing what helped me grow, and gain a peace of mind.

This personal assessment and alone time improved me academically, emotionally, and socially. Unfortunately, I  know, and have spoken to many other students on the University of Guelph Campus who like me struggle with  mental illness. I also discovered from my research that mental illness  is on the rise amongst university students in both Canada, and the United States. Mental illness for most university students begins in their  first year, and worsen towards the end of their university years. After spending five years in university, and suffering from a mental illness, I am an evidence to this fact.

Nothing helped my mental illness more than being in a state of solitude. After going into a many states of solitude I became  peaceful with myself, others, and my post-secondary education.Therefore I want other students to also benefit. I do not want them to  regain their mental health after many years of suffering, like I did. I want them to regain their mental health right when it becomes infected in their first year of university.  Therefore  I want to urge universities to force their first year students to go into a state of solitude after their first semester in university. In order to force students, this one semester of solitude will be a requirement for their graduation.

 Why  First Year Students?

It is widely known that the first year of university is very challenging. According to McLean’s Magazine Homesickness, high academic expectations from parents, academic pressures at university, and the university social life causes many students to fall into depression. Unfortunately according these students lack coping skills, so 16% of  students escape the pressure, and just drop out. Due social and family pressure 50% of these students stay in university, and spend  their university years in a state of anxiety. To numb their depression 15% of depressed students  cut, burn, and harm themselves. Then, 7% consider committing suicide, and 1% attempt committing suicide.

How Come they are not Getting Better?

Experts in McLean’s Magazine say some of these students have a history of depression, the others develop it in university.  Another cause for this epidemic of mental illness amongst students is due to the students’ struggling to cope with a fast changing world, where they can not unplug, and can not relax.

Experts say overcoming emotional struggles of life requires a time for contemplation, mediation, reflection, self examinations, deep thought, and self observation. All of those can be achieved from being in a state of SOLITUDE. However students do not have time for solitude. When they are free from studying,  they are busy listening to music, texting, or going on social media websites. As a result they do not have time for solitude.

Why Helping them is  so Vital?

Since 2010 four students in Queens university, and six students in Cornell university have committed suicide. Worse just recently, a mentally ill university student, Elliot Rodger, went on a shooting rampage  killing seven, and injuring thirteen innocent people.

Furthermore according to the TEDTalk of a Ph.D,  Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, the twenties are the most important time period in an individual’s life since these ten years set the foundation for the future of a person both  financially, and emotionally. University students are in their twenties, and therefore need as much help as they can get for bettering their future.

A Semester of Solitude

Student should be put in the solitude program in the winter semester of their first year. So when students enter school in september they will spend the fall semester on their own. During their fall semester they will shift into the university environment, struggle, procrastinate, fail, fall in love, have their heart broken, make a lot of mistakes, make bad decisions, become hopeless, and ultimately hit rock bottom after seeing  that their fall semester grades are 10-60% lower than their high school grades.

Now these broken students who have fallen into depression, should not be allowed to drop out, or finish their degree in despair. Instead the university should stop everything, and enter the students into a semester  solitude. While in the state of solitude the students will be deprived of all sorts of distractions such as WiFi, cell phones, internet, or computers. They will only be given some material to write with. Unlimited love and support will also be available to these students in case their mental illness requires counseling, and support.

Currently  universities are not doing anything major to stop this epidemic of mental illness amongst students . They offer counselling services, but in some universities like Ryerson there is a two week waiting period to see someone. Two weeks is a long time for a mentally ill student who has so much on his/her plate.

The Benefits Solitude Will Bring

Psychologist, Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter says being in solitude, alone with no distractions  will allow the following to occur:

  • The brain can relax and refresh, since it is not in constant use
  • Being alone will allow one to discover themselves, and their goals in life as a result they will plan for their future, and make goals to achieve it
  • Due to lack of distraction:
    • Productivity will increases
    • deep thoughts will occur
    • people will solve their personal problems more effectively

 

I myself struggled with mental illness from my first year, until my fifth year. I did not even know that there was a place I could go for counseling since the university did not advertise anything. Then on my fifth year of university through solitude I found peace in my heart and mind. As a result I want my other fellow students to also benefit from solitude.I do not want a problem with solution to cause humanity so much pain.

 

 

Blurring the line between what is real, and what is desired – The Pictures on Facebook

I am often reminded by my family that the love portrayed on the movies is not a reflection of the love we feel with our significant other in reality. This is because the love in the movies are just scripted performances, carried out by beautiful actors. On the other hand, the love we feel in reality is usually genuine; and reality being reality, nothing, not even our love life will ever be perfect.

You might be wondering what does this have to do with the course. Well it has a lot to do with this course. It is a reminder of what is real, and what is an act. Social media websites that has people posting perfect, photo shopped, and fun pictures of themselves, should also consider giving this reminder to their users. Not this exact reminder. But a reminder that the pictures posted on Facebook does not in any way, shape, or form represent ideal happiness, ideal beauty, or an ideal way of life. Those pictures are just what they are, a moment captured on camera.

Unfortunately, facebook users do associate what they see on facebook with success, happiness, and peace of mind. Then when their own lives lack the happiness, smiles, and people that they see on their friends’ facebook pages, they begin to fall in despair, and depression. This was proven in many studies conducted by many universities.

After reading these studies, I remembered myself in elementary school. While there, most of the time before I would ask my teacher a question, I would say, “I know this is a dumb question but.” My teacher would reply by saying, “there is no such thing as a dumb question. I am sure ten other students have the same question.” After speaking with other students I realized that my teacher was right, other students did have the same question. Therefore in relation to  Facebook causing people to feel lonely, and depressed, I realized that everyone must feel this way, even the popular ones.

But instead of helping each other, reaching out to each other, and filling each others’ emotional needs we put on an act on Facebook. We claim that we don’t suffer from any problems, and therefore live a perfect life. This is really sad because we  can be the solution to each other’s social problems, but instead  we  increase the sufferings of others, by making them think that they are the only one with the social problem.

Well I would like everyone to know that we are all suffering. We are all trying to feel accepted by others, not because we are needy, but because WE ARE HUMAN!!!! Therefor, STOP BEING DEPRESSED!!! STOP FEELING LEFT OUT!!!! I am not lying, I have proof.

1.    We are all lonely!!

The Atlantic magazine reported that the feelings of loneliness is widespread. In 1950, almost 10% of people lived alone in America. Then in 2010 that number went up to  27%.  Furthermore, in 1985, 10% of Americans said they do not have anyone to talk to. Then in 2004, that number went up to 25 % . The loneliness of people has lead to many emotional problems, and to a rise in the number of clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, nonclinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental-health counselors, substance-abuse counselors, nurse psychotherapists, and life coaches to whom people open up to instead. Additionally physicians in the west are saying that there is an epidemic in loneliness.

Then when facebook came, with its promise of connecting people, people got attracted to it, and joined in. However we are human, we have too much pride. Therefore we don’t admit our problems to the public or show weakness. Instead we try to put the most positive image of ourselves out there.  We do this by only sharing the good moments of our lives on facebook, and then exaggerating everything from our love life, and to how happy we are.

2.    Not everyone is Beautiful

Next another negative impact Facebook has on people is making them think that they are ugly. We have all experienced this. After going through a friends Facebook page, we may start feeling insecure about the way we look. University of Strathclyde, Ohio and Iowa conducted a research to find the impact of Facebook on body image. They found out that yes, women compare themselves to other women on Facebook, and as a result end up feeling terrible about their own physical appearance. WELL DON’T!! I am saying, DO NOT feel that way. Most women on Facebook only post the pictures that they are wearing  makeup with. Most only found the courage to post makeup free picture for a recent cancer fundraising, “#NoMakeupSelfie” campaign.

Furthermore, The Renfrew Centre, who has a mission to empower women to change their lives, surveyed 1710 adults about the pictures they post on Facebook. 70% of women, and more than 50% of men  admitted to editing their pictures before putting them on Facebook. Therefore in the future do not believe in the beauty of the pictures you see on Facebook. Photo editing software, and makeup can dramatically change the appearance of an individual. Below are some before and after examples of edited photos that will hopefully convince you that pictures  on Facebook can be edited, and are being edited. Edit your own pictures, and see how different you will look. If you are not comfortable with photoeditors, then wear makeup before taking pictures.

 

George clooney photoshopped

Before and after from a photo editor

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Before and after makeup

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Before and after Photoshop

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Before and after photo editor

3.    What kind of role model are you being for your children

Well we adults are not the only one enslaved to Facebook. Teens and tweens are also affected by the politics of Facebook.

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Young girls today want to  gain popularity, acceptance, and maintain a reputation that will protect them from bullying, and ridicule. The best way for teens and tweens  to gain popularity on Facebook  is to post outrageous, rebellious, and sexualized pictures of themselves. As a result their pictures on  Facebook is beginning to show more and more skin. After posting their revealing picture, these young girls want likes from boys, and other popular students; not from their friends. This is devastating since they are suppose to enjoy their childhood, and invest in their future.

So be a role model to your children, and other youngsters in your life. Teach them to accept themselves, and love themselves first before stooping low and buying it from others.

I want to end with saying please do not be influenced by Facebook, and  feel like an outcast. You are not lonely or a loner. You are a human. We are all on the same boat. As Ghandi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world .” Therefore start. Create groups, create pages, and organize events that will encourage people to stop living a fantasy, to stop acting that their life is perfect, and get real before this short life passes them by. Use Facebook to  change social media, from a place where we show off, to a place where we connect, help one another, and support one another.