On-line learning brings students out of classroom

By Catherine Dilworth
September 20, 2001

by Catherine Dilworth

staff writer

Now accepting students. A class you can wear anything to or nothing at all. All food and drinks are welcome, proper hygiene is not required, no shoes, no shirt, no problem.Interested? Welcome to on-line courses. A course you can take completely in the comfort of your own home and at your own leisure with minimal restrictions. An on-line course is basically an on-line syllabus with an on-line assignment sheet. Just follow the assignment criteria, meet deadlines and you’re good to go. Many students find this type of class option helpful, especially in the summer months. Many Cabrini students live outside of a 50-mile radius of campus and enjoy their summer’s months at home. This kills two birds with one stone because it has the luxury of home, while completing credits towards a degree.

Jennifer Dalvano took an on-line course this past summer. Dalvano says “It was great for a summer course and convenient since I did not have to leave home to attend class, but I would not recommend it for your regular fall and spring semesters.” Dalvano felt relief at the fact that she had such academic freedom during what is traditionally an academic free time. Some online classes do require everyone signed up for the class to sign-on at designated times and have an on-line group discussion. This would be the substitute for the class interaction and participation. Jennifer did not like this part of the course. “This part of the course hurts interaction skills because everyone does not get to speak, and having to type your thoughts takes longer, and by the time you respond to a comment, they have moved onto another topic,” she said.

Some negative opinions for online courses included the thought that they promoted laziness. Habiba King from Temple University said,” When I took a partial online course I would sign in to the assigned discussion, maybe contribute to a topic or two, and go and watch TV or talk on the phone. I feel that in college you receive some of your most valuable communication skills, and the more on-line a class is, the more these skills suffer. I also did not learn anything from the online portion of the class. I signed on while I was at work and continued with what I was previously doing.”

How helpful are these on-line courses? What if you have a question concerning the material or assignment? Well the course is on-line and so is your help. Teachers provide e-mail, just as they do with regular classes. But what about learning from your fellow students? This presented a problem to one student, Jennifer Dalvano states,” You tend to have tunnel vision because you only hear your own opinion on things. Many times we will see things in a different light when we hear others thoughts.”

From the other side of the spectrum is Dr. Marilyn Johnson, associate professor of English, who has utilized partial on-line interaction with her courses. “When I began using electronic enhancements to by face-to-face classes about five years ago, I got some resistance. But now students are more computer and Internet savvy. I think that partial on-line participation is effective. However there is a chemistry that enhances learning in face to face classes that simply is not possible in on-line courses. For people who live in remote areas or who are confined to their homes, on-line courses are valuable. For those who can meet in face-to-face classes, it is probably better to do so. I don’t get as much participation as I would like with on-line assignments, but I find that students who are hesitant to speak in class will often express themselves more freely on the keyboard. I feel it also helps students to become familiar with the Internet. I `d prefer to see us move in the direction of using hard copies less. Since computers and the Internet and e-mail are the tools of the future, I think it would be irresponsible for us not to accustom students to using them,” said Johnson. When asked if “the dog ate my homework” is now replaced with “my server was down.” Johnson replied, “Yes, and I have about the same sympathy for both excuses.”

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Catherine Dilworth

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