Friday, February 12, 2010

Online Education Unbound

Hello Class

After reading most of Communication and Cyberspace, I found that the article "Online Education Unbound" by Paul Levinson, was the article that most sparked my interest. This concept of online education is something that has always been a major issue for me. As an undergraduate at FDU, I had to take 4 distance learning classes (classes the met only or partially online). I hated each with an equal passion. Even though in many instances I was interested in the subject matter, I found having to work through the computer instead of meeting in class an aggrivating undertaking.

Levinson makes the argument that online education can be beneficial because the individual is not tied to a class time and can log onto the internet to complete work at anytime. Granted this may be a help sometimes, but I always found that the lack of structure of having to actually show up to class made it all the more difficult. As out of sight out of mind goes, I would always complete my readings and do my work by often would forget or be unable to get to a computer. I believe that having to actually come to class and participate helps to promote a structure and sense of time management for students.

In addition Levinson makes the argument that though students do not physicaly meet in class, they interact in the same way. I disagree with this point also. Actual human interaction between people greatly differs from meeting in an online environment. The way in which you physically interact with others and present yourself in front of others is one of the great sub-lessons that college gives you. Not many people actually enjoy giving class presentations, but it is a needed skill for the working environment. As an undergrad I also had to take a mandatory speech class. I dreaded this class as I have very bad stage fright, but by the end of the class i was much more comfortable and better at speaking in front of a crowd. This is something that could never be taught in an online environment.

I will say that Levinson makes good arguments about online eduation for the disabled and those who work, but I will say there is nothing like education in class between a teacher and students. Interestingly enough, when this article is taken in conjunction with the article "The Digital Divide" by Frank E.X. Dance a scary thought comes to mind. As online education becomes a larger focus in more schools, what happens to those who are not part of the digital realm? Will there be a possible time when education becomes completely online and there will be those who can't gain access to it? Fellow Students....Any ideas?


  1. Angela,

    I think I will disagree with you (for the most part).

    I do not think we can compare face-to-face education to online instruction directly. These are two very different means of transferring information using different media in the process.

    The required courses at FDU could certainly use some reformatting, but I was glad to have been pushed into taking an online course. I am constantly online and highly addicted to my Blackberry. Proving a justified excuse to spent additional time online from the convenience of my home was the ultimate package for me!

    I soon realized that as you mentioned most of my classmates would forget about the online material and they progressively started to limit their comments as the weeks went by. I see this everyday at work. Many of my students, who are/have registered for online classes, come to me not to be “tutored” but to be “taught” the material. Unfortunately, it is not too late until I understand that the majority of them have not even bothered to watch the educational videos accompanying their weekly assignments. It appears change to them that they have to actually step up and switch from passive to active mode.

    I think the concept of online instruction is yet to be defined fully (at least in the minds of the students). It appears to me from my personal experience that most students expect to use online classes with their concept of the in-class environment.

    However, the learning experience presents the educator and the student on an equal setting in which both parts are meant to contribute equally to the discussions, continuing to challenge one another. This could be the common ground for both in-class and online instruction.

    Margaret Maria Roidi

  2. I do think you make a good point with your criticisms. There is definitely something lost as well as something gained.

  3. Angela -

    This is only my first experience with online education (only took me about 20 years of schooling to get to one), and to be honest I have to say I agree with you. Although the ability to get to the "classroom" at any time is a nice perk to this whole experience, there is definitely a lot lost with online learning.

    Although students are able to learn at their own pace and more on their own terms, a lot does seem to be lost along the way. Although students can constantly consult the readings and ask each other for help in an open forum, I feel that some students would benefit more from face to face discussions with certain troublesome material. Of course the professor is never more than an email away, but at the same time a lot of that material may already be present in the text. If someone is truly having some difficulties, receiving help in person may be more beneficial. Because our class is blended, we do meet with our professor on a regular basis, so this may not be as much of an issue for our class, but this is definitely something to note about online courses.

    Like Angela said, the lack of structure is also something that I haven't enjoyed as much as I thought I would. Although it's nice to be able to log into my class at any time, with my current schedule that tends to be at random intervals that are usually unpredictable. Usually I can't get on here until after work - sometimes that's a lot later than I was planning. But if I have a class at a regular time (say Monday night at 5:25), I can always set aside that class time and schedule myself for it. Now this may just be more of an issue on my end, but it's something else notable.

    Another issue is that of participation. Although we have the ability to comment and reply to each other, discussion is very slow in this regard. There is not the room for lively debate that can erupt in a classroom. We are just words behind a screen, which takes a lot of meaning out of our words. However this does level the playing field a little bit, as students less likely to participate may be more vocal in an online environment.

    And to be completely honest Angela, I can't see education ever going completely online. Even though there are plenty of technological advances to come (especially those we can't even begin to fathom), I just can't see certain types of practicum being moved online anytime soon. No matter how realistic the simulation, biology students will still need to cut something real at some point or another. And how effective can chemistry be if you aren't using the real thing? And as a former journalism student, I can tell you first hand that many classes want local news, which can be lost in an online environment. I think more and more aspects of education will move online, but it just does not seem like it can be as effective as our traditional system.

  4. Hello,Angela:

    Thanks for sharing your experience to us. I also feel this article is interesting. But I have different feeling about this article. I dont reject your opinion,on the contrary, I like your points. Because you have a lot of experence about online education, you can have more thinkings anout this. I think we can exchange our opinions. :)

  5. You make a good point about how difficult adjusting to an online education can be. Suppose you don't understand what the assignment is about.