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