Not just free time

Online classes aren’t as glamorous as you might think

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been right there with you.

It’s that time of the semester you meticulously and methodically go through your course catalog to pick out the perfect schedule for the upcoming semester. And then, bam! A three-credit course offered online.

Immediately, you think you have three less credits to worry about with more time to sleep, study and socialize.

But not so fast.

While it might seem glamorous to do all of your work for a class lounging around in bed or on the couch, I believe online classes have far more disadvantages than going to class.

Joshua Kim, director of Digital Learning Initiatives at  Dartmouth College, argued in an article on that online classes take away the value of traditional learning, which doesn’t simply include understanding the concepts of whatever class you might be taking.

Think about all of the things you learn in a traditional classroom setting that go far beyond the material. You might be paired in a group with someone who is vastly different than yourself, but you are forced to interact and cooperate with them because at the end of the day, it’s all about achieving that common goal.

I had that exact experience happen my freshman year on campus. It was my very first semester out of high school, and I was paired in a group for a class with four people who were extremely different from my upbringing, and I was scared nothing was going to get done. But after getting to one another, we knew that what mattered the most was getting the possible grade together while informing our classmates at the same time.

I’m in an online class right now with group work through D2L, and I don’t feel that same interaction or sense of cooperation whatsoever.

To me, one of the best parts about education here at UW-Eau Claire is the availability of professors. They make office hours quite accessible, and it’s actually them you are going to talk to, not teacher’s assistants like you might see at other schools.

Yes, you can post a question on D2L all you want. But interacting through the internet with a professor who lives in Arizona is not the same as interacting with a professor face to face.

Also, there’s a significant cost factor in taking an online class. According to a study done by Minnesota Public Radio news, most colleges charge extra to enroll in an online class, fees ranging anywhere from $15 to $30 per credit hour.

I get it, a lot of professors want to connect students with the technology of today, and let’s face it, it can be quite convenient if you stay on top of things.

But just because you don’t have to go to it doesn’t make it any less time consuming. After all, it is a regular class, the same commitment should apply in order to succeed.

I like the idea of trying to appeal to convenience and technology, but completely cutting out interactions is not the way to go. Instead, do like a lot of classes do already and meet the regular amount of class periods while holding discussions online as part of the homework assignment. That way, you get the best of the both worlds.