Taking online courses isn’t just as good as taking a traditional classroom course. Online learning has a lot to offer its students.
Why Online Education Is Not Just As Good As Classroom Learning Cons
by Adam Robbins, President, University of Central Florida
For most of us, everyday access to technology is an important milestone in life. The ability to shop, listen to the news, or set the alarm for work all only require our swipe of a finger, all day, every day.
But for students who don’t attend traditional schools—and their professors—sitting behind their computer screen for days at a time is an ongoing challenge. When, after countless push-button clicks, students come up with questions, they may not know how to answer them.
To be clear, students should have online access to a rigorous and personalized education. But it is not just a matter of having a place to study, transfer papers, and a library book at their fingertips. Universities that only invest in the online delivery of learning must invest in the people who deliver that learning.
Those who understand the nuances of research and classroom study have an advantage when it comes to working with people offline. They have a better understanding of what is right and wrong when challenging students to communicate their ideas. The first step to learning a language is listening. Listen to others who have spoken it, who have actually learned how to talk like a student, and who understand the nuances and debates surrounding the conversation.
Listen to your teachers. How well-versed are they in whatever academic field you study? Are they inquisitive, or do they just give passing advice? Are they capable of challenging students, or are they happy to just let them talk for days and create that positive, long-term relationship between students and professors that cultivates a connection of trust?
How well-versed are they in whatever academic field you study? Are they inquisitive, or do they just give passing advice? Are they capable of challenging students, or are they happy to just let them talk for days and create that positive, long-term relationship between students and professors that cultivates a connection of trust? Provide personal attention
According to Rakesh Mehta, assistant vice president for enrollment management at Iowa State University, “Receiving personal attention does not happen online. Online education does not facilitate a two-way conversation.”
Learning through both physical and virtual interactions goes a long way. Online instructors cannot hold a student’s hand the way their physical instructors can. They cannot sit down next to a student and pose questions to him or her. They cannot take notes with them or show them how to write coherently. Students need help understanding what you are saying, not just through the words you say, but also through the actions you take.
That’s why trying new ways of engaging students, including surveys and texting, can also help increase the amount of trust with which students associate universities. When we provide students with tangible evidence of your knowledge, it builds trust—and they are more likely to study and apply for admission.
Keep practice as important as the classroom
Over time, online learning models lose some of the appeal online. We wonder: if those who spend hours a day sitting behind a computer screen have hit the pavement just to play video games?
The answer? Yes, you can spend just as much time playing online games as you can sitting in the classroom. You just have to find the balance.
The important thing is that students play the games as much as they do when they are outside of their study sessions.
The joy of studying is shared across the learning experience, between the morning scan, the afternoon chats, and the evening games. This can be made more of a priority at all times.
While online learning can present itself as simple, it is important to ask if a new model is as beneficial as a college classroom.
It is not simply the building and layout that matters, and the expectations for the instructors are always the same. But we can benefit from new ways of delivering a college education—showing students new projects, pairing them with a local entrepreneur to study new business models, and even utilizing existing bridges between the classroom and real-world experiences.
For students, after all, only a small percentage of college students go off to pursue research. Perhaps online education will become a great option for students who prefer to build relationships, rather than publish papers.
Adam Robbins is president of the University of Central Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.