By: Jenny Ingles
With the myriad of Online classes popping up, from Online-only schools to graduate classes at major universities, I’m thinking that there must be something to this. Honestly, I’m too old to have taken any of my classes Online; however, I’m young enough to remember having an Online homework forum, in college, for Organic Chem and Calc III. I’m in that gray area where I lugged gigantic textbooks around, used spiral notebooks and filled out scantrons, but I was also expected to present my homework in typed format, from a computer. For me, this push to Online raises questions. Are they more or less effective than traditional classes? Are there social ramifications for people who never sit amongst their peers hearing (or asking) questions? How do they know that I didn’t hire someone to take this class for me? Is the pencil indent on your middle finger a thing of the past? These questions drove me to do a little research on this Online class subject, especially since Advanced Behavioral Rehabilitation is launching Online Classes as we speak.
According to some random woman from some random magazine that I’ve never heard of, there has been a 150% increase in the number of students enrolling in Online classes (or “distance learning” as she calls it) from 1998-2008. Luckily for me, she does a decent job of siting her sources. ASIDE. To add to these questions regarding Online classes; are we losing our ability to critically examine statistics and sources? Are we instead abandoning our Scopes and Methods training (an ode to Joel Toppen at Hope College) and clinging to any random blogger (eh-hem) that we run across? END OF ASIDE. I now go back to the random woman’s statistics. If it is true that there has been a 150% increase from ’98-’08, then I would hope that these programs are churning out as high a quality education as their brick-and-mortar counterparts are. But is this quantifiable?
If you’re a numbers nerd like me, then you’ll probably delve into the sources that I’m providing and scrutinize their survey methods and correlation values. If you’re not, then your eyes probably glazed over when you read “correlation values”. So in an effort to appeal to numbers nerds and non-numbers nerds alike, I’m providing the sources (see below), but skipping the analysis of them.
Now I return to the question, “are Online Classes as effective as In-person Classes?” Ah, now here the conundrum arises. While researching this, I found oodles of data on why people take Online Classes, who is taking Online Classes and their graduation rates, but information on the quality of these programs is minimal. A quick Google search will result in pages of news releases showing top schools releasing Online versions of their programs for both Graduate and Undergraduate Degrees, but nowhere, have I discovered a good analysis of this question. Maybe I need to go passed page 4 on Google with my searches, but I’m writing a blog, not a thesis, so I just don’t have that kind of time. Being that my research is turning out to be fruitless, I’ll tackle my questions myself (I’m open to input from people smarter, wiser and more experienced than me in this field, by the way. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Are Online classes more or less effective than brick-and-mortar classes? I suppose this depends on many factors. The content may be the same, but the delivery is definitely different. If the Online program is engaging, dynamic and open for questions to be answered, then I would venture to say that the classes could be equal in their effectiveness. A lot could be said on what the material is, as well. I’d venture to guess that psychology 100 is easier to grasp in an Online setting than Thermodynamics is. Maybe. Unless you’re a genius.
Are there social ramifications for people who never sit amongst their peers hearing (or asking) questions? I would unequivocally say, “yes”. A significant portion of my college experience was learning how to get along with real people who have differing life experiences and view-points. If I had been huddled around my computer strictly learning content, then I wouldn’t have been privy to the awesome (and stupid) questions that my peers had about the subject at hand. I learned a lot about placing one’s foot inside one’s mouth, as well as about eating crow. Most people get jobs and have to deal with other people, so I feel that the social aspect of this is critical. Go to any restaurant where teenagers frequent and watch two teens sitting at the same table completely engrossed in their phone and not the person sitting across from them. This is a product of technology overload, and these are kids who are probably going to have problems in a workplace that expects you to turn your phone off for 8 hours and work with real people. Now, in a setting where the social aspect may hinder the learning process, the Online experience may be superior. There is also a caveat for people who are attending classes Online and working or doing something else with real people who are different from them.
How do they know that I didn’t hire someone to take this class for me? Some don’t. I took an Online course that had no security measures for this, and when I finished, they sent me my certificate that I can use on a job resume. Google “pay someone to take online class” and the first organic hit is a company that specializes in this. I know at ABR, we have measures (like visual recognition) to prevent this type of cheating, but the vast majority don’t. As an employer, that’s a frightening thought.
Is the pencil indent on your middle finger a thing of the past? This question is akin to “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” If you feel up to googling this, you’ll see many people discussing this topic in forums (apparently people have no lives). I didn’t see a lot of younger people on this forum so I’m pretty sure this is an older person thing, but then again, I wasn’t looking all that hard. You can research this for me and let me know. And if you’re like “hey, I’m not older! I’m only 3X”, then I’d like you to go listen to the song they played at your high school graduation and then come talk to me.
So while this little brain exercise really didn’t provide any results, I think it was worth it. The world is moving in the Online class direction, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. I think it’s important to start analyzing the quality of the classes being offered and choosing ones that are equal to or superior to their brick-and-mortar versions. This may take a little research, but it will be worth it. I think for a future blog post I’ll provide some ways to find a “good” Online program. Stay tuned.
http://www.edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2012/07/50-striking-statistics-about-distance-learning-higher-education (sources within source)