7 Ways to Integrate Critical Thinking Into Online Education

Critical thinking is one of the most important tools you’ll use in life – whether on a personal or professional level.  Simply defined, it’s the ability to question initial assumptions and determine the veracity of a subject.  In other words, it’s used to determine whether or not something is true, false, or partially true.  It’s basically the act of thinking about thinking.  Along with its use in daily life, it’s also one of the most important skills that college students can master and is the basis of quality programs.  That’s because going beyond just simple yes and no questions is the key to a great education.  But while it’s easy to understand why it matters, knowing how to integrate critical thinking into online education is much trickier than some think.  Here are seven ways to do it.  Whether you’re a teacher or a student, these can be invaluable tips to remember.

#1 Focus on the Big Picture

Faculty members who teach online programs should try to anchor every assignment to a much larger overall idea.  If not, students should try to view each assignment as a part of a larger one and try to take a look at its place in the overall scheme of things.  This way they can see how each individual part affects the overall idea behind a particular problem.

#2 Question the Question

Instead of just taking a look at the immediate aspects of any problem or topic, be sure that a larger view of it is taken as well.  Look at how it impacts the immediate problem, but also how it fits into other aspects of the world.  Instead of thinking about an immediate answer, in other words, consider what the overall implications of that answer will be and ensure that they make sense as well.

#3 Challenge your Perceptions

We all have our own preconceived notions about various things.  But true learning involves being able to accept that we’re wrong sometimes.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your own perceptions and to broaden your mind.  Teachers, likewise, shouldn’t be afraid to accept viewpoints that conflict with their own on occasion.

#4 Identify Assumptions

Assumptions are impossible to ignore, but can’t be used to give yourself answers.  Students of online programs need to know how to identify their assumptions – or the teacher’s – and then work to ensure that the answer stands on its own, not just that they’re trying to prove their initial assumptions.

#5 Eliminate Bias

Emotional factors, stereotypes, clichés, propaganda, and more are all problems that need to be overcome.  Identifying these and moving around them is important for developing good critical thinking skills.

#6 Communicate

One of the biggest hurdles in online education is that it’s a text-based type of learning.  But today more and more schools utilize online classrooms and other contact methods.  Teacher-student communication is a must for good critical thinking and something that can’t be ignored.  Discussion and communication will be key in overcoming this hurdle.  Video or text chat, online video classes, direct discussion via email, and any other communication tool should be used often.

#7 Utilize the Net

Simply put, a good critical thinker will always have an open mind and view most problems in shades of gray.  No matter what type of learning is taking place, teachers should encourage this ideology and students should embrace it.  If one is already learning through the use of the internet, why not utilize it to ensure that they have all the information needed?  The net is the most powerful research tool in history, and using it to enhance your critical thinking during online education just makes sense.