Raising Your Hand in an Online Classroom
by Dave Pagel
Anyone who has seen daytime television lately is aware of the full
line of universities offering online classes for those who want a
better career, but need time for soccer practice. All these commercials
seem to suggest that anyone can do what they are currently doing and
still receive a degree online or at night. Are online classrooms
really as good as everyone seems to think?
According to http://www.monsterlearning.com/resources/articles/wnl/archives/onlinelearning1.asp,
Susan Aaron explains that online learning actually covers a wide
variety of applications, not just the virtual classroom. A tutorial, a
Web-based conference, or even some role-playing games can constitute
Positives of this new learning experience are numerous. In an online
classroom setting, a user can login two minutes before class, in
pajamas, cooking dinner, with a reference manual sitting in a chair next
to them. online classes can also be cheaper than their “bricks and
mortar” counterparts. After travel time, parking, and other costs, some
people would save money by staying at home and learning online. Going
online provides the opportunity for higher education to anyone with an
Internet connection. Sitting on a beach in Mexico, taking a class in New
York, is now a reality.
The drawbacks aren’t as easily recognized. They are clouded by the
excitement of the prospect of such a simplified education. Because a
student can do almost anything during class, the student’s attention
span will be tried. Doing anything besides having complete concentration
for the class could distract the student.
Teachers may be harder to contact. Instead of just talking to the
teacher after class, students could send an e-mail, but have to wait for
a response, or even run the risk of the teacher not reading the e-mail
in time or at all.
Hardware issues also arise. The student’s Internet connection could
be working properly before class, then suddenly quit. Now a student that
was going to show up for a class is truant.
There are also aspects of online learning that could discourage some
potential students. Communication differences between being online and
talking face-to-face could lead to many negative emotions about the
class. The lack of nonverbal communication could cause confusion and
frustration. Another issue is the fact that learning is self-paced. If a
student is not comfortable with self-paced learning, online learning
may not be for them.
Even though there are negative aspects of online learning in
general, online learning is a great alternative to physically attending
class every day. Even just having the ability to learn from home and not
have to worry about driving to the nearest university makes online
classrooms attractive. Maybe those online universities on television
really do have a great opportunity for all of the busy people of the