Mar 02 2008

Online Courses Not for Everyone

It shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing to any­one that edu­ca­tion is not a “one size fits all” endeavor, online or else­where. This bit about learn­ing styles, how­ever, did sur­prise me:

Cor­re­la­tions between learn­ing styles and suc­cess in dis­tance edu­ca­tion have shown to be incon­clu­sive,” Strick­land1 said. “How­ever, one com­mon theme reap­pears: the suc­cess­ful traits of a dis­tance learner are sim­i­lar to the suc­cess­ful traits of an adult learner in tra­di­tional edu­ca­tional settings.”

The arti­cle claims that there’s “a mere 30 per­cent of dis­tance learn­ers actu­ally com­plet­ing their courses.” It goes on to men­tion that “Dis­tance learn­ing allows the learner to over­come tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers to learn­ing such as loca­tion, dis­abil­i­ties, time con­straints and famil­ial oblig­a­tions,” but I’m won­der­ing how much they really paid atten­tion to the fact that those of us who enroll in online classes are often those who have the most bar­ri­ers to stay­ing in school? I take such courses because of phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, but I’ve still had to drop my classes repeat­edly because of ill­ness. There are still dead­lines, and in fact some online courses are “com­pressed,” mak­ing dead­lines even more important.

Strick­land also men­tions “the lack of insti­tu­tional sup­port and iso­la­tion involved in the nature of online courses.” I’m not sure what kind of sup­port is miss­ing, com­pared to face-to-face classes, but maybe that’s because I’ve never sought out any “insti­tu­tional sup­port.” Does she mean tutoring?

At one point, though, Strick­land refers to “intro­verted per­son­al­i­ties” and “shy indi­vid­u­als” as (appar­ently) being syn­ony­mous, and not get­ting involved in the typ­i­cal class­room set­ting. That’s a pet peeve of mine. Intro­verts are not nec­es­sar­ily shy! We’re self-contained, and most of us usu­ally put more weight on our own val­u­a­tions than those of oth­ers, so we aren’t as vul­ner­a­ble to peer pres­sure. I miss good class­room dis­cus­sions, as I’ve never seen any online class that has man­aged to pro­voke any­thing close. But then, I didn’t expe­ri­ence any good dis­cus­sions in face-to-face classes at DeVry, and very, very few at SPSU. In fact, I heard more than a few of my fel­low stu­dents at SPSU com­plain­ing about non-traditional stu­dents, in par­tic­u­lar, want­ing to “talk too much” in class. They clearly wanted less dis­cus­sion, not more!

Quotes from Researcher Finds Not Every­one Can Suc­cess­fully Learn Through Online Courses, Despite Their Pop­u­lar­ity

1 Shawna L. Strick­land, clin­i­cal assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri School of Health Professions

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