Written Words – Online Classes

I’m taking my first “online class” this semester.  Actually, they’re hybrid classes.  We meet for two weeks face to face, then spend two weeks posting responses in “conferences” online.

Now, the conferences are understandably pretty demanding.  You have the world at your fingertips, and almost a week to post responses to the given questions, based on the posted material.  In theory, it makes sense.  In a traditional class setting a professor gives  lecture, then encourages responses, or debate from his or her class.  In this format, the material/lecture is posted, students (assumingly) read an study said material, then post responses in the aforementioned conferences.  The “midterm” is take home, and open boook and worth 20% of our final grade, while the final is face to face, and worth 25% of our final grade.  20% of our final grade is earned through our participation in the conferences, we’re asked to post one original thought on each topic, and give two responses or questions to a peer’s.  The remaining 35% of our grade is based on a paper, and two case studies, all which are of course turned in online.

I can’t decide whether this is cheating education, or actually a more effective model.  In essence, the onus is entirely placed on the student.  Outside of the papers, and case studies, everything is graded by a 3rd party, virtually eliminating the “they’re a nice kid, the numbers say C, but let’s give them a B” factor that often comes into grading.

But, we’re encouraged to use the internet, the library, email our professor, in effect the worlds resources to do our work.  And that’s more realistic of the real world I suppose.  We would want a doctor performing major surgery to have every resource available to him to ensure his brain didn’t fail him at a critical time.  We would certainly want our broker to do some extra research on a company before dumping all our investments into it.  Growing up with a teacher, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “how would you handle this situation?” asked to a peer in the field.

Maybe this is the way a face to face class works as well, and I never realized it.  Or maybe this is genuinely a better model.  I truly don’t know.  But the online class has taught me how to research, ask questions, and debate without feeling like I’m “cheating”, while the traditional setting always seemed to want to make me memorize material, then recall it at a given point in time.  But while the online class requires me to be more disciplined, the material is unquestionably more involved, requires more research, and more thought, the end result is a more polished understanding of the subject matter.

Who knows, maybe it’s cognitive dissonance, me trying to justify a decision that’s lead to an untraditional education.  But I’m learning more, and enjoying learning.  And I’m going to have a degree by this time next year.

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