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The Drawbacks of an Online Education

California State University Long Beach

The Drawbacks of an Online Education

Gabrielle Karington Art 305 March 13, 2013

The Drawbacks of an Online Education The Drawbacks of an Online Education In an age of increasing dependence on technology, it is no wonder that more and more schools are turning to technology as a resource. In many cases, it is an extremely beneficial addition to a classroom; SMART boards make presenting material to students much easier, and additional computers in classrooms allow students to conduct research and work on projects.

However, in some instances, technology is entirely replacing the classroom experience instead of just functioning as a learning aid. Online classes are becoming an increasingly popular trend amongst colleges, with an enrollment increase of 1.6 million students from 1995-2001.1 As is the case with any major changes, there are both benefits and drawbacks to online education; the overall structure for online classes is continuously improving, but online education should not become a replacement for traditional education. Online classes seem to be most beneficial for working professionals and educators. Distance education, another term for online education, supplies learning opportunities without disrupting the flow of everyday activities and allows participants to bridge the gap between work and school.2 The significance of online education can be found in the wider access that it provides to students; the classes are most beneficial to students who find themselves unable to attend traditional classes due to work commitments or other restrictions.3 Online classes can also be helpful for educators who want to stay up-to-date in their respective fields of study but dont have time to take traditional classes or engage in individual research. In addition to providing more flexibility for students, online classes can be more cost-effective for students. Classes are

1 2

Lyons, John F. Teaching U.S. History Online: Problems and Prospects. ( The History Teacher, 2004) 2 Larreamendy-Joerns, Jorge and Leinhardt, Gaea. Going the Distance with Online Education. ( Review of Educational Research, 2006) 12 3 Ibid., 17

The Drawbacks of an Online Education

usually cheaper because they do not require the use of physical facilities on campus, and students save money on transportation costs, such as gasoline and parking fees.4 Online classes are also beneficial because they allow for increased student participation. Because online discussion boards are available 24 hours a day, online classes allow students to communicate and contribute to discussion any time they have an idea to share, as opposed to requiring them to participate during the specific hours of class. Shy students have expressed a preference for online discussion boards because they allow them to participate in discussion and share their opinions without fear of ridicule from their classmates.5 Even the most gregarious students appreciate receiving responses to their online posts because it allows them to feel heard, whereas in a traditional classroom their statements might not have been discussed for a number of reasons.6 Online education also allows students to discuss taboo or controversial topics with confidence, which can lead to more in-depth discussions and learning.7 Many educators find that teaching online classes actually requires more time and effort than teaching a traditional class. Most online classes utilize a website like Blackboard through their supporting institution that allows teachers to post all assignments, readings, and grades for students; these websites also provide a forum for class discussions. However, in order to effectively maximize the benefits of such websites, both teachers and students must first have a thorough understanding of how the sites work. Because online classes allow students to work at their own paces to meet deadlines, all of the required materials must be ready and posted at the start of the semester so that students have unlimited access to them, which can sometimes require

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Clark-Ibez, Marisol, and Scott, Linda. Learning to Teach Online. (Teaching Sociology, 2008). 3 Ibid., 3 6 Ibid., 3 7 Pearson, A. Fiona. Real Problems, Virtual Solutions: Engaging Students Online. ( Teaching Sociology, 2010) 3

The Drawbacks of an Online Education preparation starting a semester or further prior to the actual start of the class.8 To keep students on task, teachers are often forced to require the completion of weekly assignments, such as reading responses or online quizzes; high levels of activity can cause sites to work slowly or even crash, resulting in an inability for students who waited until the last second to turn in their

assignments on time. This, in turn, causes the teacher to receive an influx of frantic emails from students asking for extensions because they were unable to meet the deadline due to technological failures.9 The teacher must then respond to all of the emails and determine whether or not an extension is warranted, which could also potentially lead to some angry emails from students who, emboldened by the lack of actual personal interaction with the teacher, do not stop to consider the consequences of their actions.10 Unclear instructions about assignments or due dates can also lead to a flood of emails, whereas in a traditional classroom setting the teacher would be able to clarify the confusion for all of the students at the same time.11 Many teachers of online classes complain that they spend more time tending to their online classes and student concerns than they would in a traditional classroom setting.12 One of the biggest complaints students have regarding online classes is that the experience is incredibly impersonal. Teachers have reported that their students enthusiasm and participation in online classes decrease at a rate that is directly proportional to the amount of time spent working online.13 Teachers are responsible for creating a structured online experience, but it can be difficult to find a way to convey excitement about the topics they are teaching if all that students can see are their words.14 To create a more personalized experience for students in an
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Op. cit., Clark-Ibez and Scott 4 Ibid., 4 10 Op. cit., Lyons 8 11 Ibid., 9 12 Ibid., 2 13 Ibid., 3 14 Op. cit., Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt 29

The Drawbacks of an Online Education online class, teachers can go the extra mile by addressing student concerns individually and providing encouragement and feedback through emails. The main contributing factor to the success of online classes is the quality of the instruction. The design of the class is crucial for even the most focused and motivated students. Every student has a different style of learning, so online classes need to be designed to match

both student expectations and their diverse learning needs.15 Studies have shown that students in well-organized classes learn significantly more, but very few universities have specific structural guidelines or technological support for teachers and students of online classes.16 A successful online class depends on the proper use of technology, the teachers thorough knowledge of the subject material, the level of student engagement, and a clearly articulated vision of what students need and should learn in the class.17 However, definitions of quality vary greatly by institution, and in some cases the quality of education can suffer when the primary focus of the institution is business efficiency instead of education.18 Online cheating and plagiarism also contribute to a decrease in the quality of online classes and can easily be prevented by utilizing programs like turnitin to check for originality. In spite of their potential benefits, online classes are still not suitable replacements for traditional education. Because they are not conducted in a face-to-face manner, online classes are limited in the subjects they can cover; areas of study that involve physical participation and firsthand experience, such as art studios, science labs, and education classes, are not practical for online adaptation. Therefore, online education tends to be geared towards specific majors and is not easily implemented as a universal teaching technique in all educational institutions.

Tallent-Runnels, Mary K., et al. Teaching Courses Online: A Review of the Research. ( Review of Education Research, 2006). 21 16 Ibid., 25 17 Op. cit., Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt 17 18 Ibid., 18

The Drawbacks of an Online Education However, there are certain parts of online education that can be beneficial in traditional classroom settings. Most universities already utilize websites like Blackboard to help students manage their grades and keep track of assignments and course documents, so traditional classes already have access to a forum for online discussion and it would be easy for educators to include that as part of their curriculum. Online systems allow teachers of both online and traditional classes to provide students with access to course materials; however, teachers of traditional classes can post things like PowerPoint presentations as supplements to their classroom lectures as opposed to using them as the primary sources of education like in online classes. There are endless possibilities for the incorporation of technology in classrooms, and it

is the job of todays educators to find a balance that works best for their students and the subjects they are teaching. Technology can be a wonderful asset in the classroom, but online classes should not replace the traditional classroom experience. There are many things that can only be learned by personal experience, and classroom discussion is an important part of the learning experience. There is still substantial work to be done in developing a system of online education that maintains the consistent quality of instruction found in traditional classes. However, online classes in academic subjects that do not require a face-to-face learning environment can be beneficial for students with time or transportation constraints, and certain aspects of online classes, such as online discussion boards, can be extremely useful in traditional classes. The best educational strategy is one that successfully combines traditional methods with the use of modern technology to help students maximize learning.

The Drawbacks of an Online Education References Clark-Ibez, M., & Scott, L. (2008). Learning to Teach Online. Teaching Sociology, 36(1), 3441. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database. Larreamendy-Joerns, J., & Leinhardt, G. (2006). Going the Distance with Online Education. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 567`605. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database. Liebowitz, J. (2003). Teach People Skills Totally Online?. College Teaching, 51(3), 82-85. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database. Lyons, J. (2004). Teaching U.S. History Online: Problems and Prospects. The History Teacher, 37(4), 447-456. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database. Pearson, A. (2010). Real Problems, Virtual Solutions: Engaging Students Online. Teaching Sociology, 38(3), 207-214. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database. Tallent-Runnels, M., Thomas, J., Lan, W., Cooper, S., Ahern, T., Shaw, S., et al. (2006). Teaching Courses Online: A Review of the Research. Review of Education Research, 76(1), 93-135. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from the JSTOR database.