These days, there are many different ways to get an education. There is the traditional method of sitting in a classroom, there are private teachers whom you can pay to teach a specific skill, and then there are online classes, which seem to be growing in popularity.
This semester I am taking an online class, and it is very convenient to be able to do the work from home any time I want and be able to do the work in my pajamas. But despite the convenience, I can’t help but wonder if online classes are as effective as the traditional face-to-face method of schooling.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. Not only do I like being able to do research online but I enjoy killing time on various sites. I’m just not sure I like taking a class online.
One nice feature of face-to-face classes is the in-depth discussions. Not only do you have the opportunity to have these types of discussions before the tests, but you are also having these discussions throughout the semester. You can get feedback to see what other people’s thoughts are on a subject. Granted, you can email the instructor or the other students in your online course, but so far I am finding face-to-face discussion is more helpful when trying to get the information to sink in.
Another thing I think affects how well the information is sinking in is the amount of distraction that exists while working online. While doing online work, there is the temptation to instant message, listen to music, or surf other sites while reading through the lectures. In a classroom, you do not have the same opportunity for distraction and since someone is talking, it is easier to keep your mind on the topic being discussed than it is when being read.
Online classes do not offer a lot of structure. For instance, there might not be any dates to have readings done, or little assignments to hold you accountable for learning the information. Instead you may just be given dates to take the tests. This makes it easier to fall into a routine of focusing on your classroom classes since you are being held accountable for those on a weekly basis, and saving the online stuff for the last minute. The problem with this is when you cram you do not retain the information as well.
I do not think online classes are all bad. I think they have some very good qualities to them, but I also think, at least for some people, face-to-face classes are more effective. On the other hand, I do know people who have done very well in online classes and it is because they are very focused and are not prone to distraction.
I guess at the end of the day, online classes are effective for some and not for others. It just depends on what kind of student you are. I have noticed a few courses only being offered online, and I don’t think this is a good thing.
For those students who learn better in a classroom setting, there should be a classroom section offered at least one semester. This way, both types of students have the opportunity to get the most out of the course.