Skepticism surrounds the idea of an online education in the eyes of the public (Young, 2011). College and university presidents disagree believing that online degrees are equivalent to traditionally earned degrees (Young, 2011). Who is right? The truth, as it often does, falls somewhere in between.
Over the past few weeks I have been taking my first online course. Having been a traditional student in every sense, I did not take any online or hybrid courses during my undergraduate and graduate study. In the beginning, online education was new and few courses were offered in that format. Later it was because I knew how to excel in the classroom environment. Thus, this online class has turned my idea of college upside-down.
The idea, by Americans, that online degrees and classes are not academically equivalent to more traditional methods may derive from the thought that these must not be as rigorous as the brick and mortar colleges and classrooms, but I have come to find that this is just not true. Recent studies also back up this notion. Further, with the rising cost of a college education, the increasing need for more highly educated workers, and the poor economy, more and more adults are returning to school to gain enhanced skills and professional certifications.
According to Russell Poulin, deputy director for research and analysis at the Wiche Cooperative for Educational Technologies in an August 2011 article from The Chronicle, “portrayals of online learning in popular culture don’t help” (Young, 2011, para. 7). He went on to cite an episode from Fox’s Glee where a character was insulted for having a degree from an online institution.
What may change this is the nature of online education. What has been essentially an independent study of a topic with some guidance of what to read and what assignments to complete is becoming more interactive. Not only do students have to participate in discussion boards, but in my online class we have to work in groups to complete assignments each week. The students who are motivated have been holding discourse on a blog and use an instant messenger service with each other and the instructor. We are able to get feedback quickly.
A perk of this kind of learning has been that on a Saturday afternoon when I finally had the time to study, I was able to ask questions directly to my instructor who immediately answered. She was able to guide me through my struggle and get me feeling more confident on a Saturday! This is something that few residential courses could offer a student. Now, don’t get me wrong, online courses are difficult. They are designed to be that way because institutions want them to be as rigorous as a conventional course. Having a course online be easier than a traditional course would be a disservice to the student and a red flag to anyone seeking a degree from that institution.
Some suggestions for being successful in an online course are:
- Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the activities
- Read the assigned readings
- Re-read the assigned readings
- Follow the directions exactly
- Study for exams as if you were going at them with no notes or textbook
- Participate in the blog or discussion board with classmates
- Submit your homework before the deadline
- Interact with your instructor if he or she gives you the opportunity/ ability
- Ask questions
As the technology in the world is changing, so are the people in it. More and more jobs require workers who are competent in more areas. Taking an online course and succeeding at it could show your potential employer that you have the independent spirit to get things done without someone watching over your shoulder.
See your academic advisor if believe an online course might be right for you.
Young, J. (2011, August). College presidents are bullish on online education but face skeptical public.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com