One topic we have discussed several times this semester is the ever-increasing role of online courses in higher education. Today, I reflect on my experiences with and future hopes for online education.
Online Learning – Love it or hate it? Early in the semester, we had a discussion about online classes. When the question was asked about everyone’s opinion of their online learning experience, I remember that one person said “bad.” This surprised me in some ways. In general, I’ve had good experiences with online learning, both through IVS and an online class I took as an undergraduate. Sure, these classes had their flaws, but I don’t feel like any of these flaws were the fault of the online format, and I felt that the online format opened many possibilities that just wouldn’t work in the normal classroom. For example, my IVS class was my first experience using an online forum for class discussion, something I still think is a very good idea. I also feel like online learning has revolutionized the accessibility of knowledge. We talked about the large number of students enrolled at the University of Phoenix, for example, and the increasing popularity of MOOCs. This is also true of K-12 education – for students in poorly-funded, rural schools, access to online classes changes everything.
The Internet and Inclusiveness. In addition to giving new opportunities to underserved populations, I believe that online education has the potential to create more inclusive learning environments. By moving discussions online to chat rooms, forums, or blogs, we create new opportunities. In the traditional classroom, conversations are dominated by the most extroverted students. In an online setting, each student has a voice. For discussion of sensitive topics, aliases can be used. I think this system has a lot of potential in the younger grades, when students are much less comfortable with a classroom discussion, but I think these arguments also apply to university classrooms.
What do YOU think? Share your stories here to help me answer the question “Online learning – love it or hate it?”