I finished a second online exam, thus Online Classes are on my mind. I have taken a lot of online classes. For someone like me who has to be home for the children, meaning I cannot take physical classes after X time, online classes allow me to take more classes than I otherwise would be able to. Online classes also allow me to work at my own pace…to a certain degree. That being said, many of the online courses I have taken have been disappointing. I do not believe this is a Ferris State issue or a professor issue, but more of a new technology that has yet to be realized to full potential issue.
If you have not taken an online class or are thinking about taking an online course here something to think about:
Online classes can be more time intensive and intrusive than physical courses. Time intensive because depending on the course you may have to check more than three times a week. This leads to intrusive, comparing online to physical class work, online is easier often requiring less to do. HOWEVER, a lot of online course work involves waiting on other students to do something from posting something for you that you can respond to, to completing their segment of a group assignment.
Online classes are a procrastinators wet dream, often work is assigned at the beginning of a week with a due date of end of the week or beginning of the following week. The majority of students in every online class I have been in wait until the last possible moment to do the work. Most of the time the work is posting their thoughts to a discussion board, where I (you) have to respond to X number of students. Two problems:
- Many students post some of the most inane thoughts and a lot plagiarize the class book or other students posts. Try to imagine a situation where you are forced to respond to two other people out of 30, but 25 of them say exactly what was in the book or what the person next to them said. It can be frustrating.
- Because most of any class wait to the last minute, this can be problematic for people like me, typically the minority of any online class (roughly 2 to 4 students) who have lives, want to get the work done sooner rather than later. Thus, there have been classes where I had to wait until the last day to respond to other students.
There other issues that you may want to be aware of, the three biggest are quality of work, testing, and communication. These issues vary, which is why I think this is an issue with online education being relatively new.
Quality of work is horrible! Horrible! If the discussion posts are an example of what the professors see from actual work, I feel bad for the professors. Spell check, unheard of. Critical thinking, mostly absent. Thoughtful responses, HA! Citation, what’s that? Often you will read the same thought 25 times before finding an original thought. I can only imagine what papers look like…wait I know, because I was part of an online class with a collaborative paper and I wanted to reach through the interwebs to teach them how to write (read strangle them).
Testing is a blessing and pain in the ass. Tests tend to be multiple choice with time limits. Some professors allow retries, which is nice for those people who bombed the test and shows that the professor wants the students to learn something. However, there have been tests with written responses and that is where it gets murky. Some testing software is looking for a specific word or phrase, if that is not there wrong answer regardless of response. Other software waits for the professor to review. Its a crap shoot. If you, like me, want feedback on your test you have to hope that the professor does that; so far one professor did, the rest remain silent. Which makes learning difficult.
Communication, is a mixed bag. There are professors who understand the tools and make the most of them. There are other, the majority so far, who have limited understanding. Most when contacted directly respond quickly, as they should. It is the presentation of information that gets odd.
During a physical class lecture there is more incentive to pay attention, take notes, and learn; if nothing else by listening. Online classes have too many distractions, that is the nature of being able to “learn” online. Reading a PDF is not the same as a lecture. Reading a book without discussion from the expert (professor) is practically useless. Watching an online lecture can be as good as a classroom lecture, unless the professor…and these things have happened
- has the camera aimed up their nose
- gets distracted while talking (ranging from playing with hair to roaming off topic)
- edits the lecture poorly
- is clearly uninterested in talking on camera that day
However, when PDF, book reading, and online lectures/videos are combined with a professor who is interested in discussing the topic, not making students talk amongst themselves, online classes are great. The Michigan Studies online class was the best, as I learned a lot because the professor was involved in every level. I still put that knowledge to use.
I’m sure I will think of more to talk about, but if you are thinking about taking online classes keep some of the above in mind. 🙂