Rebecka Olsson

Online courses are growing more and more each year and there are many advantages to exploit from taking an online class. Most of the time online courses are for free. Both Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering free massive online courses, also called MOOCs, and the range of online courses offered is growing continuously. But there are a couple of things to take in mind before making the decision to take an online course. I think that it is important to ask yourself if this is something that you are interested in and want to learn more about and if you are willing to put in the time and effort that it takes to complete an online course. It is a big responsibility and students who take online courses must be disciplined and well prepared to work hard and independently. I want my education to be challenging and interesting. I want it to be personally enriching but, if or when I decide what path I would like to take in my educational career, it shall be providing me the opportunity to be professionalizing towards my career goals. I have some experience with online classes but that did not match my learning style. I do not have the patience and self-discipline it takes to take an online course, and I want to be able to ask my professor questions, something that online courses does not offer. Therefore, I believe that in-class learning is the best option for me.

Online classes are not for everyone, in fact, by failing to provide guidance from an instructor, online classes actually put certain students at a serious disadvantage. In one of the articles I read by an author named Andrew Delbanco, he tells us that a recent report points out: “Underprepared students taking online courses are, according to one of the authors, falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses’.” I think that he means that in a “real” classroom, it is easier to catch up by observing the lecture, listening to what others have to say, and having a discussion with the classmates and the professor to try to grasp what the lecture is about. Delbanco also states that motivated students who already have a foundation of traditional education and who wants to build on that are often most successful: “So far, most testimonials to the value of online learning come from motivated students, often adults, who seek to build on what they have already learned in traditional educational settings. These are people with clear goals and confidence in their abilities.”

I prefer smaller classrooms that provides intimate discussions with my classmates and group projects that the professor is involved in and helps the students if they need it.  Sometimes the professors are too helpful and that could harm the education, this phenomenon is called helicoptering. I have experienced teachers who helicoptered over my classes but it never affected my learning negatively. My teachers were helpful and supervising in a good way, but after reading my peers’ process assignments I learned that many students’ learning is being harmed by teachers who are helicoptering over their classes. One of the process assignments I read described a anecdote about when one of my peers Brock Moldenhauer was helicoptered by a teacher. He passed the class with an A but he did not learn any Spanish: “This may have helped my grade but I learned absolutely nothing.” He also stated: “I retained little to none of the information we should have learned.” There are both pros and cons with helicopter teachers, Brock had a bad experience from being helicoptered by his Spanish teacher, but myself for example, benefited when my teacher was “hovering” over my work.

I do not have enough patience and self-discipline to be able to take a full course online and therefore I do not want my education to be web-based. I have a positive experience from online learning and I do not mind taking some lectures online, for example the online lecture we look in this class, it was helpful and I definitely learned something from it, but in the long run I would not benefit from taking only online courses. I want to have a professor available if I have any concerns considering subject and I like to see my classmates in class and to learn from interacting and discussing with them. One of my classmates, Sierra Severin, describes the biggest issue with online classes like this: “If I have a question after class I know that there are more people I can ask than just the professor”. When taking an online class, none of these options are available if you have questions or if you do not understand something from the class. You have to figure out the problems all by yourself: “Taking an online class makes it difficult to ask your professor questions”. Difficult, or even impossible. On the online class we took there was no question-button to submit questions to the professor who put together the class.

I value when my teachers are involved and genuinely cares about my work and my learning. I think that it is important that my teachers know who I am and know about my qualities and what I need to work on in my learning process. I read an article by Eric N. Martin, a student from University of Maryland, who wrote an article about his expectations of how a good teacher should be: “Education should prepare and encourage all teachers to do what good teachers already do best: know their students as individuals so they can provide feedback that helps them progress.” When taking online classes, none of these criteria is fulfillable. I am not a teacher but I would guess that a big part of why teachers like their job is because they like to see their students grow as individuals from learning and understanding the things that they talk about in class. I can imagine that exchange of sophisticated, well thought-out ideas and thoughts between a student and a professor must be really rewarding for the professor, and to see a student who has been struggling with something to finally understand it must be a great feeling of success for the professor.

We are probably going to experience more of online education in the future, but even more complex and well thought out. When I graduate there might even be online lectures that provides question-buttons that you can use to ask the professor questions about the lecture. I might change my mind about online courses when I graduate and have a broader foundation of knowledge from the traditional education that is offered here at SNC, and therefore favor and use MOOCs more.

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