Student: I can do my work anytime I want to from any place in the world! I'm so glad that these online classes don't have deadlines! That means I can just submit assignments whenever I feel like it at my own whim. What a great way to take classes!!!
Teacher: One of the nice things about online classes is that you can take it from anywhere in the world. That opens the door for lots of diversity that might not happen in the traditional classroom. You can have someone from China, someone from Seattle, someone from New York all interacting together, however, in order for this to happen most online classes have a very structured learning environment with deadlines set by the professor. This is to ensure the best online experience for everyone so that everyone is at the same place at the same time, interacting with each other. Not twenty-five people doing their own thing. Deadlines and due dates are what help to keep the class together.
Student: These online classes are perfect for my busy schedule. Since time is tight I can log on one time a week and cram all the work into one sitting. I am sure I'll get a lot out of that experience. I am sure I will learn more doing it all at once instead of spreading it out like in a regular class.
Teacher: Most online classes require students to log on several times a week to ensure active participation and maximum learning. It is very difficult to take in all the material in one sitting. And because of the nature of the class with no physical contact, it is important to maintain contact by logging in several times a week. Students have expressed excitement logging in several times a week to see if there is email or new discussion responses, questions that have been asked that need answering so logging in several times a week stimulates learning by keeping students in contact with the learning environment. Online classes are not just about gathering information, they are rich integrated learning environments just like the traditional classroom and as such require attendance several times a week.
Student: (with schedule in hand) I have signed up for five regular classes and that is quite a load. I'd like to take another class so speed things along. I think I'll sign up for one of those online classes as an extra. I am sure it is not as much work as traditional classes so it will be like getting free credit not much work to put out.
Teacher: Taking an online class as an extra would be a big mistake. Because of the nature of online classes with so much reading, these classes tend to take more time than a traditional class. Students are encouraged to take no more than two online classes at one time due to the intensive reading required and the extensive time commitment. Many students find that an online class takes between seven and ten hours per week. Certainly taking a full load and taking an online class would interfere with student success. Students need to go into an online class knowing that the class will require as much, if not more time and effort as any traditional class.
Student: My family is planning a two-week vacation to the Bahamas that falls at the beginning of the fall semester. I think I will take one of these online classes because I have heard that they don't follow the regular semester schedule that you can just start and stop whenever you want. This way I could go on vacation and then start the class. And, there is a camping trip with friends that comes during the last two weeks of school. Since these online classes have no start and stop dates I can do these online classes between my vacations. What a great opportunity these online classes are, they let us do it all!
Teacher: Most online classes follow the traditional semester calendar with beginning and ending dates the same as traditional classes. In addition, professors online also have similar attendance policies as traditional classes. Students must long on a certain number of times per week to ensure they meet the attendance requirements. While some classes have more lenient attendance requirements, most professors feel that students need to be as present in an online environment as they would be in a traditional environment. Camping trips and vacations should be planned during semester breaks. An online class is not just about information. It is an important and viable community of learners. A community that students need to join right at the beginning and stay with right to the end. Students popping in and out of class at whim will only lead to feelings of distance and isolation and could result in an unsuccessful online experience.
Student: (holding broken computer monitor, all wrapped up in wires) My computer broke last night and I can't get it fixed until next week. I have two assignments due at the end of this week. Well, I'm sure I'll get an extension because it is not MY fault that the computer broke down. I'll just call the professor and ask for an extension for the assignments. I mean, after all, how can he or she expect me to do assignments on something that is broken? It's not like I have two computers.
Teacher: With computer accessibility on the rise, students have many options in dealing with breakdowns of their own system. Most instructors will not accept excuses involving broken down equipment. Most colleges have a computer center that students can use. In addition, public libraries provide Internet access, Kinko rents time on computers and provide Internet access and Internet cafes are beginning to pop up all over the world. With this much availability, the motivated and committed student can always find a computer to complete assignments on time. The same standards are set in traditional classrooms. Students are not given extra time if their printers break down, or their typewriter ribbon has run out. All students in all classes are expected to deal with the calamities of technology and to produce assignments accordingly. At the beginning of most online classes instructors suggest students have in place a backup plan in case of a computer breakdown. If students heed this warning then when, and if this happens, the student will implement the backup plan and proceed in the class. The need for an extension is a moot point. This type of critical thinking on the student's part is a necessary skill in dealing with technology in all facets of life today.
Student: (student saunters in, sits in chair looking very self-satisfied). Ok, I've been waiting for someone from the college to contact me about providing a computer so that I can begin my online class. School starts soon and I haven't heard anything yet. I've called a friend who says I can use his "sometimes" if I need to, but that would be kind of a drag if he's not home, so I guess I'll just wait for the college to deliver mine. If it's not here on time, then I can't do the work. I'll just wait until someone calls me. (Student folds arms across chest).
Teacher: Most colleges aren't required to provide computers to students to take online classes. Students are required to provide their own access to a computer and the Internet. As stated before, there are places students can go for emergencies, but students should have their own computer for the bulk of the work. Consider the computer part of the materials required for the course. Trying to work around a friend's schedule will only lead to frustration and an unsuccessful online experience. Students must have a working computer up and ready to go by the first day of class. However, it is a good idea to have a back-up plan just in case your computer breaks down.
Student: (computer with monitor facing away from student. Student looking frustrated as she/he tries to locate the on/off switch. Generally looks confused) I have never used a computer before, but I am sure that I can learn while I am taking this online class. And what's the Web? I hear all this talk about the course on the web, but I guess someone will explain it to me when I start the course. I never learned how to type, but that shouldn't be a problem as I can hunt and peck pretty well. I'll figure it out. It can't be that hard.
Teacher: Students need to have minimal computer competencies such as knowing basic word-processing knowledge and a working knowledge of the Internet (what it is, how to get to it, how to navigate around it, how to send an email, etc.). In addition, because of the amount of writing required in online classes, students should know how to type with some accuracy and ease to avoid endless hours of frustration. These are not skills that can be learned in conjunction with taking the class. They are skills that should be mastered before the class begins.
Student: (student with scarf over head, or arms over head, something hiding his/her face, maybe whispering) I very shy, so I'm glad these online classes don't have any discussion. I usually sit in the back of the room and hope the teacher doesn't call on me. Thanks goodness all I have to do is writing assignments in this online class. No one will get to know me.
Teacher: Most online classes have a discussion component. Students are required to participate in online discussions and, according to students who have done so, are able to get to "know" each other in a very open and honest way. This discussion, while not "face to face" still allows a wonderful exchange of ideas and the opportunity for "shy" students to open up in an unthreatening and protective environment. Often shy students respond that the online environment helps them gain confidence in their ability to interact with others, a confidence not available in a traditional class.
Student: (with legs up on desk, computer turned off, reading some comic book) I have trouble doing my homework without someone pushing me, but I'm sure this aspect of my personality won't interfere with taking an online class. I always get to it, eventually. When I'm done with more important things (hold comic book in front of face).
Teacher: Students who take an online class need to be very self-disciplined and motivated. Students need to be independent learners who can take responsibility for completing assignments on time and meeting set deadlines. It is very easy to get behind since there is no teacher standing up at the front of the class reinforcing what's due when. Students must be able to set their own schedules and stick to them. Online courses provide flexibility, in terms of when the assignment is done, but students need to be able to manage this flexibility accordingly and not use that flexibility to put off doing the work. Online classes put more of the responsibility on the learner.
Student: I don't want to take an online class because there is little or no contact with the professor. I mean, it's not like she's going to be on the screen talking to me, so how will I know she is there? I need to feel as if someone is really paying attention. I'm sure that can't happen online.
Teacher: Actually, students who have taken online classes say they feel more connected to their professors than in the traditional classroom. Most professors are logging on daily, checking for questions, assignments, problems, and usually get back to students right away. Students have commented that the online environment feels like someone is "always there" instead of just there twice a week as in a traditional class. There is still the option of calling the professor on the phone for clarification.