Brain Puzzle and Unspeakable Intension : On-line Course Learning

When digital learning and social media usage become new trends in higher education, we start to hear so many good things about digital learning, and we begin to get showed by “Big Data” about how powerful social media is. People start to use digital learning on line to deal with long distance. On-line courses are offered more and more frequently to give both teachers and students time and location flexibilities.

However, according to my personal experiences, on-line courses are not always so effective. I took two on-line courses among my two-year PhD study here. Both of them are offered by great teachers, and they both prepared a lot judging from what they offered on line. The way these two courses have been taught in is similar. Teachers offered video lectures on line with the slides and their voices, they assigned a lot of readings according to different topics, and they set up a weekly due day for the assignments.

But I went through so much trouble when I tried to learn from on-line courses. First, I find it is difficult to gain a clear knowledge structure or thought process after I watched the lecture videos. It was usually the case that I tried so hard to follow the content on each slide, but I couldn’t get a big picture after I watched the whole thing. I agree with Robert Talbert, “modeling thought processes” and “sharing cognitive structures” are two important things in-person lectures offered, which are hard to describe or pursue in the video lecture.

Second, it is hard to make deep impression of knowledge and create engagement using video lecture and discussion section. Lack of context and stories, video lectures can be kind of boring compared to in-person lectures. And the engagement of students dropped a lot when we can’t talk immediately face to face. Using the discussion section seems like a solution to the communication problem, but the talk lack of tone and expression tend to lose some of the original meanings.

Third, it is always unspeakable intension in the on-line course. Since the teachers would like to make sure students put enough effort to the courses, they give more readings and assignments to students comparing to in-person courses. The due time is very strict that students always need to submit a lot of materials at the same time every week. So that due time, that day every week suddenly become nightmares. At least for me, nervousness was always there since I took the due time and assignments as the only chances to prove that I learnt. Even after the submission, new kind of intension began because of the grading, and sometimes an unexpected low score came out and limited reasons would be offered on line. That would be so different if students could talk to teachers to see what happened and what could be improved.

Picture Source:

In general, I feel that the knowledge gained from the video lectures is like being fed by a puzzle piece of other people’s brain set, which would make you so confusing and nauseous even if you try so hard to swallow it. And the communication difficulty and higher expectation of yourself always make you nervous and shaking, and did worse in on-line courses.

In addition, some students around me also hold weird thoughts that if you choose on-line courses, you are trying to take the easy cut to get credits. I would say that is not the case at all.

Call me old fashion, but I will say do not throw away the in-person lectures. New media can be used in the classroom to help with the in-person lectures, I think that should be a better solution to bring in the benefits of social medias and digital learning. Creative lectures, activities and interactions should always be the core of the course, I call that my “teaching innovation statement”.



Jean Lacoste. “Jean Lacoste’s Teaching Innovation Statement”. Retrieved from

Robert Talbert. (2012). “Four things lecture is good for”.  Retrieved from

5 comments for “Brain Puzzle and Unspeakable Intension : On-line Course Learning

Leave a Reply