So I’m about 1 month into my courses at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media and I’m enjoying what I’m learning mostly. Although the courses are offered both in-class and online, I’m taking the online versions to avoid having to drive down to Chicago every week. I’m starting to think this dual-natured instruction method really sucks.
Most of the frustration comes from watching lectures and watching discussions that they have about things in class. They’re able to interact in ways that are just completely unavailable to those who are taking it online. They can ask questions, interact with the instructor, and actually hear what their classmates are saying generally.
Meanwhile those of us online have a crappy little message board that we’re required to post one thing on once a week. And somehow that is equivalent to the interaction these guys get in class? In my design class, they even do critiques of everyone’s projects the day they are due. For the online students, they don’t get any of that.
I guess on one hand it’s probably just jealousy that I’m not getting to have as rich of an experience, but on the other hand I think it is making it more obvious to me the disingenuousness of the college of equating the two methods to take their courses. I have absolutely no doubt that those who attend class have a qualitatively different experience than those who take them online, yet those who complete the entire curriculum over the web receive the same degree as those who took it in-class when they probably did end up learning and experiencing very different things.
This isn’t to say that we don’t take the same exams or have the same projects but there is a lot to a course besides those and it doesn’t seem like they do anything to really alleviate that difference. Not that I’d like my degree to be branded as an ‘Online’ degree but at the end of the day I have felt that what I have received is an experience that is inferior to the in-class one.
I do think that online learning by itself is a great tool, and I think you could definitely have an experience that is almost as rich as an in-class one. There are just a lot of parts of the class that would need to be reworked to really benefit from it and when you’re also teaching a physical class, it is much more difficult to have that process.
I am still planning on finishing my degree and I appreciate not having to drive somewhere for class every week (my classes last semester were so frustrating because of that) but if you plan on taking classes that may have discussion in them (and that’s a fair number), you might really enjoy taking it in-class even though it is extra effort.