Why Do International Students Hate Online Learning?

I know that I wasn’t the most successful in high school. I was in the lower echelons of my class and consistently failed most of my classes.

Why Do International Students Hate Online Learning?

Photo illustration by Slate. Image by Sarah Gretel.

Update, Nov. 9: This article originally asserted that free online learning programs favored by international students would lead to better retention in school. Thanks to some corrections by Nicholas Drewe on Scope last weekend, that article has been rewritten to clarify that students who face hardships, such as instability of housing, are more likely to use online learning programs. In his comment thread in the original post, Nicholas clarifies, “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many living in the U.S. have massive financial, familial, and emotional obstacles. And providing an opportunity for life-sustaining skills to become a self-sufficient person is a much more important value of free [online] learning [Programs] to mitigate these hardships. However, there is still very little knowledge about what online learning does and isn’t for the long-term.”

Original post, Nov. 9:

Slate’s editor-in-chief and global correspondent Jeff Bakalar tells us that an influx of international students on campus (thanks, Visa Reform!) means higher enrollment in online learning. But are online programs helping international students in other ways?

Kurt Meisch, an educator who’s spent over 25 years teaching in China, tells us international students at Harvard work faster on assignments because they don’t have to constantly work on their English skills. Students with time to spare want to learn because they are preparing for a career at Harvard, not because of parent pressure to land a U.S. job. They are also more likely to be productive because they are less tied to a daily schedule. We asked the students about the appeal of online learning.

“Stanford University, yes. But also MIT, etc. Also the philosophy department at the University of California. Although I’m sick of going there,” said Ke, who’s from Singapore. “In China, all professors teaching on their own are famous. So, except on the internet, studying at Stanford was much easier. As for questions like quality: the professors who come back are very much committed to the students’ experience. However, we are not able to comment on the professors’ scholarship for merit. And how they could do their internship at our colleges? Probably not easy. In their thousands of PDFs they have studied at home, I’m sure they have saved the best for our professors. When we’re about to graduate, there’s a high probability we’ll contact them.”

Emily, a student from Hong Kong.

“In my area, it helps English learners become familiar with international subjects, especially ‘Arabic,’ ‘Japanese,’ etc. It helps in learning speaking and writing in such languages. The computer skills help me communicate to my friends and family in a way that’s easier. I keep my own Internet connection with the help of someone else, and I also have Skype sessions with other students when we go to other countries. I think it’s an asset for international students to learn their own language by reading, and also to study outside of their original language.”

Emily’s essay about online learning focuses on how she communicates with her friends in a way that’s easier with her internet connection while abroad. How do you use online learning?

Brandon, a student from Russia.

“English classes are like cram sessions—once I know the whole textbook and anagrams, I forget them all. But with college-level online classes, I can log on at home and study whenever I feel like it.”

Brandon’s essay speaks to the idea that as a foreign student, learning in a foreign language in an unfamiliar culture can be both an annoyance and a benefit.

“There are more of us on campus and we don’t have so many American institutions to look to for guidance. Some of us just want to learn another language, but some are drawn by the opportunity to travel. Although I’m from Russia, English helped me a lot when I came to Harvard last year. I talked about Russian history, art, and literature for three hours in one morning. For me, the internet and Skype have allowed me to speak a different language without traveling all over the place. Before, I wouldn’t have been able to speak English at all when I came to the U.S.”

Brandon’s essay touches on the fact that despite the importance of language learning, some students find it hard to come up with even a few hours a day to devote to studying. Will online learning continue to shape the paths of new international students at U.

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