i Mixing the Ways of Learning | COLLEGE WRITING: DEBATE(S) IN HIGHER EDCUATION

By: Sierra Severin

Nowadays, in order to get a college degree you have to be tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The price of tuition continues to sky rocket for universities, while more and more online colleges are blooming. There are so many colleges today that are solely based online that it makes it easier for people to get a college education. Most colleges offer free online courses for their students. University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Globe University, and Rasmussen College are just a few that are online colleges. Professors from prestigious universities have taken the time to teach millions of people through online courses. But you have to wonder, are you really getting the best education? Is it better to learn in home, staring at a computer, or in a classroom with other people? Mixing both online classes and in classroom classes would be the ideal situation. I feel that if we only had online courses we would miss out on the experience of talking face to face to people. Most people talk to each other through texting or online messaging, but when you communicate through technology you are not gaining the skills you need to be able to interact with people that most jobs require.

In my writing class we did a little test to see if we preferred either online classes or in classroom classes. We had an assignment where we did a lecture online about claims. The next day in class the professor went over claims again, and then we had to write a paragraph about our experiences with both learning methods. In my opinion, I found the online lecture to be a little harder to understand. Yes I could go back and read over what was confusing, but I couldn’t focus on what I was reading. Learning about claims in a classroom was much easier. I was able to focus my attention on what the professor was saying, and knowing I could ask a question when I needed too made it a lot easier to learn. I did like that with the online class I had a more flexible schedule, and I didn’t have to worry about being on time to class.

After doing the experiment with online learning, it gave me a chance to really think about how I wanted to learn.  I thought back to how I was taught in high school. For me, high school was challenging. I didn’t find it easier to learn when given answers, or not being able to do the work myself. I noticed that I had a lot of “helicopter” teachers in high school. One in particular was my biology teacher. Biology is not my strongest subject, but it just made me more determined to do the best I could. When we would do the labs in biology, my teacher would hover around my group. He always tried to do the lab for us to make sure we got the right answer. It didn’t make learning any easier when I didn’t get the chance to do the work myself. I felt like the teacher just wanted us to get the grade to pass the class without actually learning anything. I think that if we weren’t graded on a pass or fail basis that it would have made learning a lot easier. I think that if grading was based more on effort and how we improve over the year that it would make it easier for students to learn.

With online classes everything is based on the grade you get for the assignments. With in classroom classes the professor can see that you have improved, and base your grade on the work and effort. Having classes be based on grades only makes it stressful for me to want to learn. I used to never go to class because I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to pass whether I went or not. Erik Martin was a student just like me, who also struggled in high school. Erik pointed out that the school system fears failure. Schools systems use standardized testing that does not allow students get second chances when they fail. Erik brought up valid point when talking about failure in school systems: “It is impossible to truly learn something without the opportunity to fail, and more to the point of our education system’s future, it is impossible to innovate when an institution fears failure.” When kids are told that in order to succeed they cannot fail, it puts unnecessary pressure on them to be perfect. I think that for some classes it is unnecessary to give students grades. One of those classes would be art. I think it’s awful to put a grade a person’s artwork just to please the school. Art isn’t about grades or whether or not you colored in the lines, it’s about expression. Most schools are cutting art programs because teachers don’t like putting grades on projects. I have a friend whose mom taught art at a middle school in Wisconsin, and they recently just cut the art program because her mom refused to grade the student’s artwork. Her mom didn’t want the students to think that there is a certain criteria to art, but only that art is a form of expression.

Education shouldn’t be based on tests, but on learning and improvement. Online classes do not give you that option. Everyone learns differently, and most people do better when given a certain test. With online tests, they can’t be tailored to that individual. I find that I do a lot better when they ask me to write out the answer without giving multiple choices. When a teacher gives me multiple choices, it makes me second guess myself more than short answer tests. For some people, they do better when they are given multiple choice tests. I think that if you are going to judge how much students have learned, then the tests should be altered to the students’ preference, and not the teachers. Teachers teach the students how they want to teach, but that may not work for the students. For example, my brother is a senior in college and in his computer programming class the highest test scores are 68%. The professor blamed the students and said they were not paying attention in class, but if all the students are not doing well then how is it their fault? If everyone is failing the class then it cannot be their fault, it must be how the professor is teaching. The professor refused to change the way she taught to fit the students’ needs because she didn’t want to teach that way. Teachers are supposed to be here to help the students learn, not fail. If every teacher taught the way they wanted to students would never be able to get the education they needed. It rare to find a teacher that will change the way they teach for the good of the students.

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