Thursday, October 25, 2012

Post 10: Technology in Education

According to a Chronicle of Higher Education/Pew Foundation survey, 46% of students who graduated in the last ten years say they took at least one online course. Yet just 51% of 1,000 college presidents surveyed said online courses provide the same value as courses taken in the classroom (28 Aug. 2011). Have you ever taken an online or hybrid class? If yes, why did you choose this method of course delivery? Did it meet your expectations? How would you evaluate the course compared to a face-to-face class? If you haven't taken an online class, what kinds of technologies have you been introduced to in your coursework? Are they "worth" learning? What positive/negative outcomes have you experienced?


Sarah Wiley said...

I have never taken an online class. My previous college did not offer any upper level History classes online probably because curriculum is entirely based around class discussion. I am still wary of taking an online class because I don’t know if it would offer the same kind of interactivity that I want from my classmates and professor. As for using technology in the classroom, I have not taken a class where we were required to have learn, buy, or use any particular technology. I did TA for a professor who used some sort of handheld survey device in her UG survey class but I don’t know what its utility would be like in a smaller, upper level class. I still have a hard time working on technology (most of the things I type, for instance, I first long-hand) so if I was in a class where it was required I might be a bit of a curve for me. What can I say? I’m a laggard through and through.

Sicong Zhao said...

  I havn't had any online classes neither. I'll take them if I had a chance. But quite frankly, I don't think it's gonna be the same for following reasons.
  Interpersonal communication:
In class, students talk to teachers and classmates face to face, that they have a full context of communication, including gesture, expression, while online there is always something lost. A conversation without whole context is incomplete and therefore not a full meaningful conversation. People need to talk to each other to gain interpersonal skills, but not through online talking, I think.
  Social skills
Technically, to show up on some occasion, is so much different than online chatting, even the video one. There is so much of a difference between actually see someone, than see him/her on a computer screen. For me, it's kind of like I don't really meet the person, at least not in a proper way.
  Class quality
I think a real class is more like an commitment, that students promise to show up, and the teacher of course, promise to teach something on class, in person. However, online class don't really to me posses such a quality. Teachers in that case, cannot really regulate a student because they're probably many hundred miles away from each other. People could easily get digressed on that regard.
So in a word, I agree with the idea that online teaching is a good innovation, but I still believe face-to-face teaching is the best way to learn, if any, the best way.

Aimee Burch said...

I took a hybrid class when I was doing my undergrad work at UIS. As part of our Applied Study Term (AST), we had to post journal entries weekly from our internships and go to a class every few weeks. We also did what was called ECCHE (it's an acronym but I don't remember what it means) where we had to take a certain number of hours towards completing it as well as an hour credit for speaker series. We would have to attend campus lectures andesite reflection/reaction posts as well as a paper at the end of the semester.
I didn't really choose this method of course delivery. It was kind of required and the way it was created. I didn't have an option. However, I wish it had a different system. Online courses are not too terribly bad, but I would have preferred a traditional class structure. With online and hybrid classes, it is so easy to get distracted and/or forget about them. I can't tell you how many times doing posts and submissions skipped my mind because it wasn't part of my routine. I had my work schedule, my class schedule, and the tasks I was required to do for those each day. It wasn't usually up towards the top of my priority lists.
Like Bill said, you miss out on the socialization aspects when you take online courses. And like Sarah, I tend to write out things first before I type them, if they even get typed at all. So while I see the benefits of having online courses, I can't say they're my preferred method of learning.

Raeann Ritland said...

My first reaction to this question was no, I haven’t taken an online course. But then I remembered that yes, I did. In order to stay on as a TA this summer, I had to be enrolled, so I chose to take stats. I’d heard it was difficult, so I figured taking it in the summer when I wouldn’t have other classes would be smarter. Because it is a difficult course, I was advised to take it on campus so I would have classmates to consult if needed. Being as stubborn as I am, I decided not to heed this advice. The biggest reason for this, though, was that I also wanted to keep my other job. The campus course met five days a week for three hours and an additional two hours once a week for lab; that just wasn’t feasible with my schedule, and since I commute, it would have been even more expensive (I’d have to pay for gas, and I’d lose my extra income by not working). So online it was. As it turns out, I really like math, so it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. I really enjoyed the coursework and had an excellent textbook package that included online practice problems for every chapter as well as supplemental lectures, homework assignments (structured exactly like the practice problems), and exams (structured exactly like the homework).

Ironically, what I disliked most about the course were the chapter lectures, lab lectures, and lab assignments (the other half of our homework) created by a professor, a doctoral student, and a graduate student. The lectures were simply voiceover PowerPoints and were incredibly boring (though, they were helpful most of the time). The lab videos were recordings of the computer screen as the doctoral student outlined how to use our statistical software to solve problems and make graphs. A lot of the math in the lab lectures was wrong, and personally, they were more detrimental than helpful. Also, the doctoral student was long-winded, so the simplest problems took an hour to solve. I ended up not watching/listening to the majority of the lab lectures and taught myself the program instead. I also disliked the amount of software programs we were required to use. We had to download Jing, JMP, and Gapminder, and we had to use both BlackBoard and the textbook’s online programs when submitting homework. It was incredibly annoying having to switch screens all the time and remember where exactly to go for whatever task I was doing.

Had I taken the course face-to-face during a normal semester, I know I would have been bored sitting in class, listening to lectures. With it being online and in the summer, I could do other things while listening to the lecture, and I finished the course in 8 weeks instead of 14. I also would have been bitter about not being able to work/having to drive to Ames every day. In all, I think the online choice was the right one for me, and I was completely satisfied with it.

Raeann Ritland said...

I can see where the social factor that Sarah, Bill, and Aimee all talked about would be a problem with online classes (especially since study groups are common with this course). My instructors tried to alleviate this by including a discussion board on BlackBoard where students could communicate about the homework and get help if needed. However, since I like math and don’t talk much anyway, the missing social aspect wasn’t a big deal for me. Perhaps it would be in a different class, like History or English.
Like Aimee said, it was difficult at first to remember all the different things I needed to do, but I keep a daily schedule and was able to create a workable routine that consisted of going to work for 5-6 hours, coming home and listening to a chapter lecture, and spending a couple hours on practice problems. Homework was due every Sunday and Wednesday night, so I would do the Sunday assignment Sunday afternoon and the Wednesday assignment on Monday. Also, since I TA for an online class, I don’t have set hours and could do my grading whenever it was convenient for me.
I hadn’t considered Sarah and Aimee’s point about writing things out first because I do the opposite. I can type faster than I write, so I prefer not writing things first. Also, revising/editing is more convenient on the computer, so that’s what I do. I can definitely see, though, where having to type things you would otherwise simply write could be problematic or a nuisance.
Finally, I do agree with Bill, Sarah, and Aimee when they say that online courses aren’t the preferred structure. In my case, because it was in the summer, and it was only one course, it worked great, better than a traditional class would have. But I don’t think I could do it full-time. I like having “real” professors and classmates (that I can see), and I like being “at school.” Never having any of that wouldn’t feel like school, and I don’t know that I could get used to it.

Sarah Wiley said...

As Raeann just pointed out, there are perks to online classes if I was in a similar summer situation with a viable alternative I would probably take advantage as well.

Aimee made a comment about blogging for classes. I have had some classes in the past (much like this one) that require online discussion postings, creating blogs, or posting things to Blackboard, so I guess these sorts of things could fall under the kinds of technologies that have been introduced. As for their helpfulness, I say everything I need/want to in class (that should surprise no one) so at times I feel rehashing my comments online is superfluous. Moreover, I don't blog or post on discussion boards outside of classroom assignments so I don't think I have found those platforms worth learning.

I do sometimes listen to video casts of lecture series on itunesU. I took most of a virology class this way and while it was just the professor talking over a series of powerpoints I learned a lot. I would never have taken the class in real life partially out of intimidation and partially because of the prereqs that surely would have been required. I had access to a lecture series on a topic I find really interesting but I don't have to suffer tuition, grades, or the initial pressure of not having the basics. In this way, online education classes can be a huge advantage.

Anonymous said...

I haven't taken any online class yet. But I have used some sources online for English study and GRE test, I am not sure if those sources are similar with real online courses. However, I agree with Bill that online class may not be able to fully replace the real one because of its lack of interactivity and communication. It is a good alternative to help us learn, but it limits our social activity and may lead to the deep change of our consciousness.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I want to try online classes might be the cost. If I could save commute fee and pay cheaper tuition, I will consider to take it regardless the negative thoughts toward it. For me, low-cost and convenience are the most attractive parts of online class. I am thinking if it is possible one day we will not be able to afford the the campus class because of high maintenance fees and expensive labor cost, or the campus class will become the luxury only serving for rich people. Besides the genetically modified foods and the mass industrial products, we now have another skeptical but cheap and easy education alternative. What we can do is to embrace it and take advantage of it. We can't stop the spread of technologies, can we?

Aimee Burch said...

Like Raeann said she usually is, I tend to be more quiet in class and let others take over the conversation. Not because I don't have opinions, because as those close to me know I certainly do. It's mostly because I can better articulate what I want to say if I write it out first. As a friend of mine says, "You're Lois Lane, not Robin Scherbatsky," comparing me to the fictional print journalist versus a fictional news anchor. For that reason, I can see where online courses and doing posts like these and for previous classes worked well for me.

However, I'm wondering if it depends on the subject being taught as well as personal preferences. Raeann said that doing stats and math alone wasn't as big of a deal for her. But if I were left to my own devices with math or science related things, I would be so lost and frustrated, even with the postings and things Raeann discussed. English, literature, history...I'd be all right. Other stuff...not so much. For some people it might be the opposite though.

Amber Knutson said...

I haven't taken any online classes, like many in our class. In addition, I haven't been introduced to much technology in my previous coursework, aside from powerpoint, videos, and audio recordings. Those technologies were used to enhance the course.
As an undergraduate, I had wanted to take a psychology course but found it only offered online when I needed to take it. Although various other students told me it would be easier, I never even considered taking it after finding it an online course. As Bill brought up, online classes are rather stunted when it comes to core aspects of teaching and learning: communication and class quality. While, communication isn't necessarily integral to learning, having a good relationship with a teacher can create a great atmosphere in which a student feels comfortable asking questions, seeking advice, and more. In addition to this, I learn primarily by auditory and visual stimuli. I need to watch someone talk and listen to their words to understand and remember what's being said. Further, I also know that when conversation happens in class amongst the teacher and the students, I learn much quicker and more effectively. An online class, for me, would result in less knowledge formation and much more effort to remember things in less effective ways.
Raeann offered when she took an online course she had to work hard at remembering assignments and created a routine that encouraged her to develop good habits for the class. She also, thankfully, enjoyed the course work. I think that online courses would be most effective for people that 1. enjoy the course type (as in Raeann's case), 2. are good self starters and self pushers, and 3. learn in ways that can be used in an online setting. As I learn by listening, seeing, and talking, an online course is probably not going to be for me.
As Sarah mentioned, I have also used blackboard in a class. For 501 last year, Dr. Abbott required us to upload our papers on the site and then read and comment on others'. Like Aimee and Sarah, however, I write better by hand and I dislike reading much (especially when I'll need to comment on something) digitally.
I've just noticed that I seem pretty against any technology in the classroom. I already sound like one of those curmudgeonly people.