Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Post 7: Distance Education

Please discuss your personal experience with distance education. Have you taken any online courses? If so, were you satisfied with the experience? If not, can you think of some possible benefits/drawbacks of online classes?

If you had a choice between an online or offline version of the same class, which one would you choose? Back up your choice with convincing arguments.

PLEASE NOTE: Bring your laptop to the next class for an in-class activity.


Jasmine Qu said...

Statistics 401 I took last semester is a course that can take online or in class. Generally, I like it because you can choose to take the class at home or at school, which gives you flexibility.

The online course also provides lecture video, so you can watch the video when you need help with homework or exams.

I tended to choose the online option when I was too lazy to go to class, especially in a snowy day. I could get almost as much as what I was in class if I was really focused, but most of the times, I couldn't finish listening the whole 3 hours class at home, I either fell asleep or just quit half way. That's why if I know the class is really important, I went to class. Besides, the technologies sometimes don’t work well, the professor’s voice could be really low or unclear. And sometimes you couldn’t tell the professor was answering online students’ question or talking to in class students.

If I have to choose between online and offline class, I would probably choose offline, because I am a full-time student, I can come to school whenever I need to. In the traditional class, my concentration level is much higher than in online class. However, my decision would be different if I am a part time student, or I constantly need to go somewhere. If that's the case, online class would definitely my first choice.

anniken said...

I haven’t taken any online classes before. We did however have an online solution at the college I attended in Norway. As Jasmine pointed out; the technology doesn’t always work, even though we didn’t have the actual lecture available online. We used the site to check grades, take tests, upload homework and send messages to classmates or faculty.

I remember one of the best things about having this as a testing system (only for quizzes, the exams were held in person), was that we had three attempts before the score was final. As a result, you could test yourself “blind” the first time, and if you were unhappy with your score, you could hit the books again before taking it a second time.

Even though I have not attended online classes, I do see the benefit of doing classes this way. As long as the technology is good, working and up to the challenge, people who have a job and kids, for example, can work when they can instead of having to be in class at a specific time. It would also make it easier for those with a full-time job to get a degree, as they wouldn’t have to choose just evening classes anymore. They wouldn’t have to limit themselves to particular classes because of their work schedule.

Going to class for a lecture is
probably going to be outdated pretty soon – we do everything else online these days, and so why not extend this to the classroom? Like Jasmine, though, I too am a full-time student and would prefer to be in class than take a class, or even a degree, online. Besides the concentration level, there are also more interesting group work that takes place in a classroom setting. The learning is more dynamic, as you can ask questions to both your teacher and your classmates. The communication is better; if you are having difficulties being understood, or understanding, you could resort to body language or drawing on a blackboard for support.

Melinda Heinz said...

I have taken several online classes both at Iowa State and when I did my undergrad. For the most part I really enjoyed the online experience. In some instances, I find that taking online classes can be more efficient (e.g., I can log-in when I want to for the most part and I can fit the class into my life so to speak).
I've actually taught online classes as well which was a great experience. I agree that as Anniken said, it does give non-traditional students a more convenient way to earn an education.
Overall, I have been satisfied with my experiences both as a student and instructor for online classes. While it is less personal, I feel you get out of it what you want.

Ryan Jacobson said...

Coming from the MPA program, every class I have taken at ISU (prior to this one) had a distance education option. A majority of my classes have been split 50-50 between in-class students and online students, and I have taken one course that was entirely online. My experience has been positive with that, primarily because of the convenience. Living outside of Ames and working a full-time job, it can be a challenge to find courses that fit with my busy schedule, let alone find time on the side to get the work done for them. So when online courses offer the flexibility of watching lectures on my schedule and not being required to drive to Ames, that is very beneficial for me.

With the entirely online course, one thing I did feel I missed was the face-to-face interaction. It felt almost too convenient, like I wasn't actually even in a real class.

But overall, I would say that the benefits of the distance education offerings outweigh the negatives, at least from my perspective. When given the choice between distance education or not, I'll most likely choose the distance education.

Bill said...

All of my MPA classes have had an online component and I have occasionally taken advantage of this when I have been unable to make it to class.

I like that the online classes are recorded so you can re-watch lecture if you missed something or if you missed class. It is also a major draw for public employees who all over the state who wouldn't ordinarily be able to come to class due to travel considerations.

But, I have found that whenever I have watched lecture from home or been in a classroom with computers, most students simply zoned out and checked their facebook or shopped online for the three hours of class. I myself have been guilty of watching Mets games online when I should have been learning. Sometimes the technology is more of a distraction.

I think it is great that technology allows us to broadcast lectures all across the state but what good is that if nobody is paying attention? I have noticed that I retain much more information in classes without computers.

I would much rather take the course in person, without electronic mediation between the professor, my classmates and myself. I get what Anniken is saying about the convenience factor but for me, the more convenient a class is, the more excuses I give myself to slack off.

Jennifer Chen said...

I only have had one online class in my undergrad study. It was a little bit hard for me trying to understand the textbook and figure out solutions to homework all by myself. We didn’t have lecture video to re-watch, so the textbook is the only source of information. We do have TAs available online to answer questions, but there was sometime when I couldn’t clearly explain my questions and we have to schedule individual meetings.

I personally prefer the in-classroom education since I can interact with the teacher and classmates immediately in a real classroom setting. I feel like learning more from a real class instead of a virtual one.

I heard that generally the online version is easier than offline version of the same class, but I’m not sure about that.

Yuwei Sun said...

I don’t have any experience with distance learning and I don’t think it is a good idea to have class online.
First, distance learning lacks the sense of participation. Being present in the classroom and involving in the discussion are vital to the process of learning. However, distance education cannot provide those two important factors. Hence, the learning outcome will not be effective.
Second, learning online will easily be distracted. Take myself as an example, when I sitting in front of the computer, the maximum time for me to concentrate is about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I will not pay much attention to what I was watching and I will begin to doing something else.
Lastly, if I have any questions, I cannot ask the professor/instructor immediately. Even though I know that many distance learning courses allow students to post comments and questions online and professor/instructor will reply them later on, this communication is neither instant nor effective.
So, I prefer in-class learning much more than the online learning. I like being present in the classroom and interact with teacher and classmates.