The more connected we become, the more disconnected we are. The fully integrated, accomplish anything online world, puts everything at our fingertips. I mean, that’s how we got here; isn’t it? A few clicks and voilà! Anything you ever wanted to learn can be yours. Whether you are on your sofa, at the park, or on an airplane, every corner of the world can be reached via the internet. Which brings us to the topic of conversation; participating in a collegiate course that is being held solely online. Is this form of education more or less beneficial than attending a course in person? Can students truly absorb all they are being ‘taught’? What are the pros and cons of taking a course completely online opposed to in person, or in a hybrid setting (one where a student can attend half the course in person and the other half is done online)?
The world is changing. That is a fact. To think one can live in today’s world while refusing to conform or evolve is ludicrous. The future is online, and that is evident in many walks of life. However, to follow every new fad online blindly is not the most productive way to live one’s life. Participating in online college courses is the new fad. Everywhere you look, there is a new commercial promoting online college that shows how anyone can graduate from college; no matter how busy they are or where they live. In my opinion, while these courses are good when taken sporadically, they shouldn’t comprise an entire college career.
Online courses aren’t all bad though. The positives of an online course are evident: they are convenient, less time consuming, and generally save money. However, the essentials of a college education are missing when taking a course completely online. Nothing can replace sitting in a classroom and taking notes during a professors’ lecture. Nothing can simulate a conversation with a classmate in person. And there is no professor looking over your shoulder to ensure you are completing your assignments. However, as I said earlier, if you don’t evolve with the times, it is difficult to get ahead in the world. With that in mind, I believe ALL college courses around the world should be offered in the hybrid format.
This practice would allow students to experience the ‘best of both worlds’ as it pertains to their education. In the hybrid format, students attend half of the course in person while submitting half of the course work online. This allows students to meet their professor in person and have face-to-face interactions with their professor on a weekly basis. Students are required to take notes in class and take exams in class. At the same time, regular, weekly online assignments along side interactive, online readings and discussions must be turned in. In my college career, I have taken courses in all three formats. I find the hybrid format to be the most rewarding and beneficial. As of today, I have taken three hybrid courses, one online, and countless in person. I received the best grades in the hybrid courses and always walked away feeling I had gained as much as possible through this style of teaching. I was also able to make new friends, network, and make positive connections with the people I had met in person. There is no way to shake a hand online. And that is the biggest downside of online courses; the lack of social interaction.
One of the biggest problems in the world today is our children living sedentary lifestyles. They are becoming increasingly lazy (and potentially obese), isolated, and disconnected.
Online courses exacerbate these problems. The child who plays Madden on their X-Box rather than play football at school is part of the problem. The child who rides a hoverboard rather than go for a walk is part of the problem. And the child who doesn’t know how to hold a pencil or write in cursive because everything is done on a smart board is part of the problem. In the ever changing, online world, these basic functions are being cast aside and are being replaced. The result of these trends is society is producing more and more children who are unprepared for the world. And those who are unprepared for the world have a harder time succeeding, not only in online courses, but in life. Studies have been done comparing the grades of students taking courses completely online versus traditional courses in person. According to a 2013 study by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, nearly twice as many students fail or withdraw from online courses compared to traditional courses. It seems the majority of students lack the maturity and responsibilty needed to succeed in an online format. The biggest factor in maintaining good grades is the accountability a professor places on the student in person opposed to online. Students are also easily distracted when attempting to complete assignments or study online.
With instant access to Social Media and numerous other distractions online, taking courses online has also become increasingly difficult. The hybrid format allows students to submit work online while also being held accountable in person that same week. Also, this affords students the opportunity to ‘speak their case’. I find the biggest disadvantage to taking courses online is students don’t get to explain their answers. Every answer is cut and dry, and there is no room for explanation. In person, a professor tends to be more understanding and can resolve any mistakes made on their part.
If all college courses were offered in a hybrid format, I believe college grades would improve siginificantly. Students who are unfamiliar with online education would remain knowledgeable in the age of the internet. And students who otherwise would lose the basic skills required in succeeding in a traditional course, would remain knowledgeable in all facets of society.