Distance education classes, also known as online classes have enabled college students all over the United States to receive credit towards their degree without actually having to attend class. Barriers such as geographic distance, employment schedules and family obligations sometimes prevent students from being on campus or attending scheduled classes.
Brittany Nicolle Krantz, a graduate student from Kilgore, is one of 4,299 students who currently take an online course at SFA this semester through Desire2Learn, an online learning management system. Krantz is currently in her first online class, Secondary Education 521 -Introduction to Learning and Pedagogy.
“The class explains the psychology behind the way people learn, the different theories behind what benefits students and how to make them learn more efficiently,” said Krantz, the class is a prerequisite for student teaching.
While Krantz is a graduate student she is also an adjunct instructor at SFA where she teaches three developmental English classes. Krantz says she enjoys teaching her students in a classroom where there is face-to-face interaction.
“I like getting to know my students personally, because the way they act in the classroom is a good indicator of why they are doing good or bad in the class,” she said.
Brittany Krantz completing an assignment for her online class via D2L. Erika Nichols SFASYOU.com
Krantz is not a fan of her current online class nor is she a fan of teaching classes in an online setting. She prefers a real classroom over a virtual classroom; rather she is the teacher or the student.
“I feel that I am more efficient at providing information to students when I am physically there with them because I communicate with my voice and body,” she said.
Like many students Krantz says she needs discipline and a set schedule in order to succeed in a class. Many students find online classes difficult because there are neither verbal reminders nor a physical class to attend every week.
“I prefer on-campus classes because I am a very face-to-face person,” Krantz said. “Technology kind of scares me; I have discovered I have to be more independent and I have to figure out most of the work for myself in an online class.”
Based on her preferred teaching methods as an adjunct instructor and learning methods as a student, Krantz does not think online classes are for everyone.
“In online classes there is an absence of a physical teacher, which I strongly feel some students need in order to succeed, she said.” “It is easy for a student to forget when an assignment is due when there is not a teacher reminding them about deadlines.”
Krantz also explains how the lack of communication on a professor’s part can end up hurting a student’s grade and successfulness in the class. She said she prefers to answers all questions asked by students in her face-to-face classes in person to avoid miscommunication.
She says she has struggled in receiving feedback and communication from her online professor, “When a professor is slow on feedback and grading it leaves a window of doubt and a larger margin of error because students don not know what they are doing wrong or right.”
Despite that it takes a disciplined and determined individual to be able to succeed in an online class, statics show that now nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course, according to Bason Research Group.
The research conducted by Bason conducted in 2011 demonstrated that the number of students enrolled in one or more online courses has reached almost 7 million. There are several factors that have caused an increase in the number of students enrolled in an online class.
Factors for Increase of Online Enrollment
- Balance a Job and Class
- Flexibility in Completing Assignments
- Specialized Degree Programs
- Transfer Credits
An advantage of taking an online class is the convenience factor for many such as Kantz, “I like that you get to pick when you do your work, which more convenient for me around my work schedule.”
According to the SFA Office of Institutional Research the fall 2013 semester online enrollment of students has increased 33.7% compared to the fall semester of 2012. SFA Online currently offers undergraduate classes, graduate classes and certification programs via internet. Students can obtain certain degrees from SFA completely online, without ever having to step foot into a classroom.
While the typical student takes a variety of on-campus and online classes there are some students who are solely online students, such as Ciara Nichole Kay, Junior, Cleveland. Kay is currently a full-time student who formerly lived on campus but this past semester she chose to move back home.
“I moved back home mainly to save money,” Kay said. “There are monetary benefits to living off campus; I am not required to pay for a meal plan or a parking ticket. A lot of the little fees go away because I am solely an online student.”
Kay also works during the day and with her online classes she is able to earn income while enrolled in school full-time.
“I complete most of my assignments and homework at night, which is much more convenient for me due to my work schedule,” she said.
For many students such as Kay, online classes offer leeway, less restrictions and flexibility, this is seen as an advantage for those who have a job.
“A benefit of being in online classes would be the leeway I have on completing the assignments,” she said. “Most professors give students a week to complete assignments, so if there are emergencies that come up I do not have to worry about attendance or anything as I would if I were enrolled in an on-campus class.”
Kay says she dislikes that e-mail and telephone are the only options she has for communicating with her online professors.
“It is unfortunate and frustrating when I have a quick question regarding an assignment and it takes a professor days to respond,” she said. “Usually by that time I receive a response the assignment is already required to be completed and submitted.”
Kay views the communicating factor with professors as a disadvantage but she views the distance factor of SFA as an advantage.
“I actually feel more like an ‘adult’ with all of my classes online because I have taught myself to be more disciplined,” she said.
Kay says that because she lives off campus she does now have to hear any of the “typical college loudness”.
“I am not exposed to hearing about parties, rushing or having someone telling me to join a certain organization,” she said. “Because of such distractions I prefer to have solely online classes versus having on-campus classes.”
A Professor’s Perspective
Professor Henry Dunn, Business Communication and Legal Studies, teaches business ethics, the general business internship and the petroleum land management certificate program all online at SFA. Despite that Dunn’s classes are taught online he feels that students still get a hands-on learning experience in his classes, which he believes is the key to success.
In his Business, Ethics and Society class, GBE 325, Dunn creates a real-world business like environment for students via internet.
“I use self-directed work teams in business in GBE 325,” Dunn said. “I set the teams up like real world self-directed work teams and I put students together which gives students an opportunity, even better than face-to-face classes, to operate within that electronic environment”
Dunn explains how in the corporate world self-directed work teams are utilized the same way as they are in his class. His goal is to prepare students to be able to communicate in an online environment effectively.
“When students get out into the corporate world they will find that 80 percent of corporations use self-directed work teams,” he said. “The company will put teams together consisting of people from all over the world; one person may be in Dallas, while another may be in Tokyo. In this type of work setting face-to-face interaction does not take place, therefore the internet will have to be a means of communication.”
Dunn has noticed that despite how students today are surrounded by technology, he sporadically has students who have trouble navigating D2L or have trouble communicating through the internet.
“As technologically savvy as this generation likes to think themselves, they seem to have an amazing amount of trouble operating within a technological environment,” Dunn said.
When Dunn has taught lecture classes he has noticed there are students who minimally communicate face-to-face with him because they are distracted by their cellphone in class. He figured that some students would excel in online classes, but that is not always the case
“D2L was purposely designed to mimic the social media types of structured environments like Facebook,” Dunn said.
“Because students are constantly on Facebook or Twitter it would make sense to me that they would be able to effectively communicate and navigate within an online course,” he said.
Many professors utilize an instrument that D2L offers, which is auto grade. Dunn says it makes grading easier on his part and it also delivers students their grades quicker, as opposed to having to wait until the next class period.
Dunn says he dislikes the lack of face-to-face communication in an online course.
“I enjoy talking to my students in person, I like to see their facial expressions,” he said. “I feel like I do not truly get to know my students in a virtual setting.”
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