Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts On Online Education:

Between 1/4 and 1/3 of my teaching load is, voluntarily, online. I've been teaching online for (I think) about 7-8 years.

There are pluses and minuses. A major plus is the ability to instantly link to valuable Internet resources (though it requires someone like, ahem, me, who is well familiar with what's good and what's bad on the Internet). Though this is a gap that is closing as more classrooms become "wired" and offer instructors immediate Internet access with a projector and audio for the entire class to see and hear.

The obvious minus is the lack of Face2Face interaction and coldness at not being able to make a "human" connection. For professors who DON'T teach with their personalities (the Ben Stein, Ferris Bueller types) online classes would subtract nothing. However, for the rest of us, something serious does lack when they can't see my facial expressions or hear the changes in tone of my voice. But, technologies like Skype may one day close that gap as well. (When something like Skype is boiler plate included on all cheap computers.)

Yeah, you've heard this before. But here's an observation perhaps you've not yet heard (and maybe I'm wrong; maybe this is just me seeing things). As a community college professor, I'm increasingly noticing "extremes" in the kinds of students who take online classes. More of the bad students who think online edu will be a cakewalk; many don't complete the course and get "Fs" for that reason. But also (this is, in part, judging on the informed well written comments on discussion boards I'm noticing; plus the self described professional backgrounds of students on the "introduce yourself" board), really good students, tending to be older and in need of a higher ed degree, who understand they need to take classes more as a means to an end, who understand the time you save in NOT having to commute to school during work hours and the ability to do the school work at your own convenience permits you to get the credits without paying the opportunity cost of lost hours for employment. And community colleges are the most economically affordable game in town. So get as many credits there as you can.

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