Online classes are a great way to get a required class out of the way between semesters — especially for commuters who cannot always get to or be on campus. They offer convenience and accessibility, and make life easier for an entire group of people. On the flip side, as convenient as they are, they lack key elements that make classrooms important.
First, online classes offer limited social interaction. A problem that most students know and understand is that a lot of the communication that happens in an online class happens through email, discussion boards and group chats. Most of the time, a student will not even know the name of another student unless they look at the class roster. The reason classrooms dominate the academic sphere is that they allow students to network. It offers them a chance to get to know new faces, network and make lasting acquaintances or friends.
That is just interaction between students. Student-professor communications in online classes are stunted, and often miscommunication becomes a huge problem. It is hard enough trying to flesh out an idea or thought to articulate a question properly in a classroom with the professor present and able to read a student’s facial expressions. To try to attempt to replicate that process without the professor there becomes a workout.
Without the personal interaction that allows the professor to figure out what a student is trying to say, questions posed over email or any electronic platform may come off another way entirely. The professor may read the question supposing the student meant one thing, when the student actually meant another. The amount of emailing it takes to clarify one topic or assignment can range from four to 10 emails in one sitting. It becomes a chore to ask a single question, and the consequences can range from a poor score on a quiz to a poor score overall, thus hurting a student’s GPA.
Another reason online classes tend to fall short of classrooms is that they require a level of discipline and self-direction that most students can agree are nonexistent or hard to come by while wearing pajama pants. Of course, there are students for whom this is no problem at all. If anything, the discipline and self-direction may be the reason they decide to take an online class.
However, for just as many students, having to remember a due date without a professor reminding them every week at the start of class is a challenge — not because they are irresponsible, though that is a factor in some cases. Most of the time, the problem is that a student usually has a few papers to do around the same time an online class is taking place, or there may be things going on in their personal lives that tend to take precedence. Sometimes students just forget. It’s human nature.
The problem arises when students have to scramble for a computer an hour or two before a quiz is due. A student has the upper hand in a classroom because not only will the professor remind them of an upcoming assignment, the students are reminding each other in the form of clarifying questions they tend to ask the professor.
Online classes wind up being more work than they are worth and, unless there is a solid reason take one, it may not be worth it. An online class could wind up hurting a student’s GPA and stripping them of the campus experience.