Typically, when one thinks of a “class,” one thinks of a room filled with desks and chairs. When I hear the word “class,” I think of sitting in my bed, wrapped up in my blanket-burrito and my face illuminated by my laptop. Technology has allowed students to bring class home with them, and many teachers give homework over the Internet, or even conduct the class fully online.
In the University of West Georgia’s case, sites like CourseDen and eCore allow students to complete entire academic courses from the comfort of their own bed, needing only a computer and Internet access. UWG Online is celebrating National Distance Learning Week from Nov. 10 to Nov. 14. In honor of this, I would like to shed some light on the question many students are asking themselves as they register for classes: it is better to take online classes or traditional classes?
“It was nice not having to go to class. But at the same time, it was hard to actually get on and do my work since I had no one standing over my shoulder saying ‘you need to do this right now,’ so I put it off to the last minute a lot,” said Alexis Johnson, a UWG Film major.
Many students battle with procrastination habits. Since they do not physically attend the class, there is not a “face” to the assignment. Online deadlines barely have an around-the-corner feel as they approach, causing many students to feel secure waiting until the last minute.
On the other hand, Nikki Shaver, a psychology major at UWG, wants to take online classes for the same reason Johnson enjoys them—not having to actually go to class. Shaver has trouble with time management and feels that taking classes online would let her use her time where and when she wanted to. She also mentioned that, besides stress with trying to manage time, online classes would help her in other aspects of life such as organization and even learning and retaining information.
“It would be so much easier to keep up with if it was online. I lose my papers for Spanish all the time, but if it was online then it’s all right there,” Shaver said. “Plus, when I get up early, I am so tired and I just pretend to listen to the teacher. If it was online, I wouldn’t have to get up early and I would be awake enough to actually learn.”
Many students are lured by the convenience of being able to set their own schedule, but the most important thing to remember in deciding whether or not to take a class online is the subject. A lot of subjects need face-to-face experience to be fully grasped. For example, students need to know how to gauge whether or not they can grasp everything they need to know from the class without a professor physically there to help them. The experience can be different for every student, and sometimes it just depends on the subject. I have done well in my online computer applications class without any outside help. Then I took calculus online and, well, just say my GPA and I are not talking to each other anymore.
Do not just take it from the students, though. There are two parties involved in a class—the student and the professor. Philip Reaves, UWG professor of CISM and Management, is teaching four different classes, with varying levels of online and traditional access. Reaves is a supporter of online teacher-student contact. He feels that students tend to think a deadline is more flexible when it is online, especially when they want a last minute appointment to beg for extra credit, or when they send professors emails at 12:04 a.m. or two days later about turning in a late assignment.
However, he does think that the lack of participation outside of turning in assignments can be upsetting. Unless you just absolutely want to participate, online classes are much harder to get a reaction with than the traditional classes. I have experienced this personally, as I tend to be rather vocal in class, sharing my opinions and answers anytime I can raise my hand. Respond to a discussion board, though? Not unless it is graded.
So, are online classes “better” than traditional classes? Well, there is no cut-and-dry answer to that question. It depends on the student and the course itself. Some students need a flexible schedule—due to work or not being a morning person—and some people need to have a professor teaching them the lesson in a classroom setting—to keep them honest or just to keep them from procrastinating. Either way, both factors must be considered before choosing which way to take your classes.
“Whichever group you might belong to, it’s imperative to find your own balance of online and in-person classes,” said Reaves.