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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, 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 online learning

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 world.