The convenience of online learning

I am a huge fan of online learning mostly because it is very accommodating to my busy lifestyle. After graduating with my associates degree I knew immediately I wanted to continue on towards a bachelors. I met with an advisor at Bowling Green State University and found that I would have to attend classes several days a week for the next 2 years. I was working at a dental clinic 4 days a week and was planning a wedding, buying a house and adjusting to finally not attending school every day. As much as I wanted another degree I knew I would have to give up so much to be able to attend classes. I was thrilled to get more information about the OSU degree completion program. With the majority being available online I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

For those with busy lifestyles, long work hours and a family, online learning has become very popular. The fact that it requires way less or no travel time at all and no set classroom time each day or week are just some of the benefits. Students can proactively work at their own pace and utilize the time they have available to complete assignments, readings and research.Online courses can be very similar to face-face courses, the material can be exactly the same just the delivery is different. In most face-to-face courses, the instructor presents the materials, orally explains it and offers time for students to ask questions in front of the rest of the class. In online courses, the majority of the time the student has to read the information for them self, utilize resources to find explanations and then if they have questions have to either post in a discussion board or email the instructor. One thing I miss when I take online courses compared to face-to-face courses is the ability to orally ask a question in front of the rest of the class and have the teacher explain it or they tell where you can find the answer. Sometimes other students ask questions that really spark my thought process or word questions differently that I would have and that really helps me understand some material. This also allows for interactive learning where the learner builds knowledge through inquiry-based collaborative interaction with other learners; teachers become co-learners and act as facilitators. I personally feel that although it is possible to have interactive learning in an online course, that many online courses fail to meet the needs of interacting learning.  Discussion boards can facilitate asynchronous learning exercises, but they often only require the learner to post 1 or 2 times and not fully interact with everyone. I even feel that often times discussion boards allow students to just “cut and paste”, or even just reword what other students have previously posted.

Also online learning, can be difficult to communicate only via email. The majority of the instructors that I have had, do not give access to their phone or offer any time to meet with them. When this is the case, I feel that you lose the ability to create a trustworthy relationship. When there is an interaction with the instructor via web chat, face-to-face or by phone there can be that gap between the student and instructor. I personally like making relationships with others and it provides a feeling of security for myself.  So the lack of relationships is often a challenge for myself.  I feel that if I was to teach an online course, I would provide contact information for myself and make myself available to the students if needed. Maybe even provide video clips of myself talking to them so that they can put a face with my name and not just see me as part of their computer.  This course that we are currently taking, is the first (besides last semester) where I have had an online instructor utilize synchronous discussions. Although, the first few times made me nervous because it was a new idea, I feel like it has allowed us to see each other, hear each other and interact together very similar to if we were in a face-to-face course.

Another challenge is staying organized and determined to complete a task. It is easy to tell yourself you have over a week to complete the readings and assignments, no rush! But then life happens and things arise that often times online learners have to rush right before the deadline to complete a task or even forget about things completely. I have to remind myself to check my email, Carmen account and check list daily to make sure that I am staying on top of it all. Completing all of the assignments on a lap top/computer can open the door for distraction. Facebook, Pinterest, email and online shopping is just one click away!! Sometimes it is hard for me to not open another browser and start looking at something else in the middle of an assignment.

Although there are differences between face-to-face and online learning, both can obviously be quite successful. I enjoy online learning because it works with my super crazy home life. If this program was not offered online I honestly would not be  pursing this degree. I would not have the time to attend classes at a University nor would I have the energy. I love how in online courses I can begin an assignment, or begin reading and then take a break and resume at my convenience. I like that if I have an entire day off that I can work ahead and get as many tasks done so that I can life my normal life during the week! Its also nice that I can work on assignments or read while my son is playing right beside of me. I don’t lose time with him and I don’t have to force someone else to watch him while I go to class. To me the convenience of online learning often outweighs the challenges.

6 thoughts on “The convenience of online learning

  1. Brittany,
    There were so many things that we had in common in our postings! I agree with you that it has been great to have the synchronous meetings to have relationships with the instructors and the students. I like to hear what people have to say and it does make you see things differently than you previously may have looked at a concept or idea. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that online learning makes the teachers become co-learners and facilitators. This was one of the greatest things that I took away from our online teaching experience project that I completed a few weeks ago. Guiding the class through the information is fine, but the things that the students add and examples they give left a lasting impression on me. I think you give a great example of the ranges of how online classes can be taught and that the access to the instructor allows for a greater dimension to the learning process from the students’ point of view. If I teach online, I will also have a way to have the students contact me and encourage online synchronous discussions. This program allows for a great variety and different techniques for us to adapt to. I think it will make us more aware when it becomes our turn to be the instructor.

  2. Convenience is the greatest benefit of online learning. It can also be the greatest challenge if the student is not properly motivated. I understand what you are saying about the reduction in solid student-teacher relationships being formed through distance education. However, this new lower level of interaction may be the new norm that students will just have to adjust too. I know it’s not what we’re used too, but it seems like a likely sacrifice moving forward. Synchonous meetings are the best way to dampen this challenge. I like your willingness to provide your contact information and be available, but understand that teaching online courses takes more faculty time than teaching traditional courses. It’s very possible to get overwhelmed teaching just one online class.

  3. I agree that an online instructor needs to make themselves available for students that need the face to face time. However, I know that one of the goals for the OSU dental hygiene program is to make it a nationwide program. That being said, with differences in time zones and far distances, online courses are not always set up to be synchronous. Synchronous discussions, like you mentioned, are a great way to bridge the gap. Right now we are all living in the eastern time zone, so 8PM, although late for myself, works for mostly everyone with life and work schedules. However, what if next year we have a student from California? With the 3 hour time differences, it may be impossible to find a time to have a webmeeting. I’m not sure its possible to feel the same intimacy in an online classroom that you do in a F2F.

    PS. I have the same problem with Facebook, Amazon, Etsy, online shopping, etc. I need a lockdown browser to complete my assignments!

  4. Brittany, I really enjoy how you have been able to connect with online learning not once but twice. The introduction you had during your degree completion program was just the stepping stone into a master degree facilitated towards higher level of education. Every single one of us is so different with things in life. There are so many benefits to online learning, and for us we need to embrace it. You have hit many great points, and one being the challenge of students losing that one on one time with the teacher. But being available for phone conferences of SD is a HUGE advantage we have in this tech savoy world of ours =)

  5. Brittany, I actually wonder how successful a masters program in dental hygiene would be if it were not online and the difference in students a FTF program would have. I think most enjoy the freedom to work on assignments or even work ahead if their schedule allows. It definitely accommodates students that have a family to take care of and students that have full or part time jobs. Amy raises a interesting point about the synchronous meetings and the problems that arise with different time zones. Although we have all found a time that works for us, students in other time zones may have difficulty being able to join in these meetings. A beneficial online meeting for us, just becomes a recording for those not able to join in.

  6. I know for you Brittany that the online program makes it a reality to get your graduate degree, and I think you are the kind of student we want to open that opportunity up to. There are several programs that have a mostly online component for the MDH degree, this seems to be the needs of those who are pursuing graduate degrees. I like how you suggest that instructors offer opportunities to talk or communicate other than email. Sometimes email is difficult, especially when explaining something lengthy. I’ve often thought it might be good to hold weekly online office hours where students could log in to Carmen Connect and ask any questions or clarifications they might have. It might be hard related to finding a time that works for most students also.

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