I’ve only taken an online course once, and it was in my undergraduate studies, a requird class that was meant to introduce freshman students into campus and college academic life, and mostly considered to be a joke by most students. Needless to say, I didn’t give the class much priority and often forgot about assignments/tests/quizzes until about 15 minutes before their due date. Once or twice, I may have forgotten completely about an assignment! So even though the class was not difficult in content, my grade reflected a student that struggled.
I blame the online format and the lack of routine. I know that I am a person who needs that classtime, I need the meetings to keep me on track and focused on the class. So I can’t imagine being successful in an online degree program. Even just last week, I stated in my class that I felt it was unfair that they offer my same masters degree at other universities as a completely online degree program. I feel almost offended that someone would think that they could learn as much and be as successful as I would be with just an education through a computer.
But my teacher really challenged me to think about my feelings and re-think what the possibilities of an online course or degree could encompass. So I’ve been trying to take another look at online learning to see if I might come around to seeing the value or if my original thought would be confirmed- that online learning is inferior learning.
First off, I recognize that just by utilizing the internet daily- I do already learn online. I search for answers and information all the time for both personal use and academic use. So right away I can acknowledge that our generation is spending a lot of time online, on the computer, so it is a very comfortable and convenient venue for a lot of people today.
I found a report of research from the Department of Education which conducted research on the possible benefits or downfalls of online education for students, including the age group of K-12. I am surprised to see research for this age group, because I mostly think of online education geared towards college and beyond, maybe even some high school level classes. The report ultimately says that a blend of face-to-face and online education is the best learning scenario for those they studied. But more surprising I found that there are entirely virtual high schools! Florida has a the Florida Virtual School which serviced over 60,000 students between the 2007-2008 school year! I personally, just can’t imagine having had my high school years spent online, but then again I realize that I’m taking only my personal experience into account.
I have to think about those who have lives different than my own. For those who have learning differences, or physical disabilities, online learning may be the easiest option for them. Bottom line most positive argument for online education is the availability of content anywhere, anytime. So for those who have inflexible schedules or attention spans, online content has got to be a great alternative for them.
But the human connection is what is lost for me. The availability of immediate call and response, the heated discussion or the burning question answered. Those in-person reflexes are what makes a classroom lively and stimulates thought and discussion. I find those moments valuable to both the learner, the teacher and the rest of the classroom as well. Body language, eye contact, and even talking with your hands are these great interactive human languages we speak with one another.
So in conclusion, I can see that complete online learning may be beneficial to those who otherwise can’t work out a situation to be in a physical, brick-and-mortor classroom, and I can also say that I think it is helpful blended with a face-to-face class. But I can’t yet say that I believe a total online education would top an in-person program.