Online Courses Not for Everyone

It should­n’t be sur­pris­ing to any­one that edu­ca­tion is not a “one size fits all” endeav­or, online or else­where. This bit about learn­ing styles, how­ev­er, did sur­prise me:

“Cor­re­la­tions between learn­ing styles and suc­cess in dis­tance edu­ca­tion have shown to be incon­clu­sive,” Strick­land1 said. “How­ev­er, one com­mon theme reap­pears: the suc­cess­ful traits of a dis­tance learn­er are sim­i­lar to the suc­cess­ful traits of an adult learn­er in tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion­al set­tings.”

The arti­cle claims that there’s “a mere 30 per­cent of dis­tance learn­ers actu­al­ly com­plet­ing their cours­es.” It goes on to men­tion that “Dis­tance learn­ing allows the learn­er to over­come tra­di­tion­al bar­ri­ers to learn­ing such as loca­tion, dis­abil­i­ties, time con­straints and famil­ial oblig­a­tions,” but I’m won­der­ing how much they real­ly paid atten­tion to the fact that those of us who enroll in online class­es are often those who have the most bar­ri­ers to stay­ing in school? I take such cours­es because of phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, but I’ve still had to drop my class­es repeat­ed­ly because of ill­ness. There are still dead­lines, and in fact some online cours­es are “com­pressed,” mak­ing dead­lines even more impor­tant.

Strick­land also men­tions “the lack of insti­tu­tion­al sup­port and iso­la­tion involved in the nature of online cours­es.” I’m not sure what kind of sup­port is miss­ing, com­pared to face-to-face class­es, but maybe that’s because I’ve nev­er sought out any “insti­tu­tion­al sup­port.” Does she mean tutor­ing?

At one point, though, Strick­land refers to “intro­vert­ed per­son­al­i­ties” and “shy indi­vid­u­als” as (appar­ent­ly) being syn­ony­mous, and not get­ting involved in the typ­i­cal class­room set­ting. That’s a pet peeve of mine. Intro­verts are not nec­es­sar­i­ly shy! We’re self-con­tained, and most of us usu­al­ly put more weight on our own val­u­a­tions than those of oth­ers, so we aren’t as vul­ner­a­ble to peer pres­sure. I miss good class­room dis­cus­sions, as I’ve nev­er seen any online class that has man­aged to pro­voke any­thing close. But then, I did­n’t expe­ri­ence any good dis­cus­sions in face-to-face class­es at DeVry, and very, very few at SPSU. In fact, I heard more than a few of my fel­low stu­dents at SPSU com­plain­ing about non-tra­di­tion­al stu­dents, in par­tic­u­lar, want­i­ng to “talk too much” in class. They clear­ly want­ed less dis­cus­sion, not more!

Quotes from Researcher Finds Not Every­one Can Suc­cess­ful­ly Learn Through Online Cours­es, Despite Their Pop­u­lar­i­ty


1 Shaw­na L. Strick­land, clin­i­cal assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri School of Health Pro­fes­sions

10 Replies to “Online Courses Not for Everyone”

  1. Weird — the com­ment form is in Span­ish.

    In my expe­ri­ence, schools just aren’t gen­er­al­ly good at deal­ing with atyp­i­cal stu­dents. Hope­ful­ly this will change with time.

  2. I think it’s actu­al­ly Ital­ian. And I thought I had it all trans­lat­ed. I’ll go back through the tem­plates 🙂

  3. I had­n’t seen that par­tic­u­lar arti­cle, but I have read what has post­ed about the sit­u­a­tion. Home­school­ing has always been a lit­tle more irreg­u­lar in Cal­i­for­nia than in states that have spe­cif­ic guide­lines for us. One of the few advan­tages to Geor­gia is that we DO have a good HSing statute in place, no thanks to the HSLDA and oth­er big orga­ni­za­tions.

    When I was mar­ried to Katie’s father, before he took the job in south Geor­gia, he con­sid­ered one in Huntsville. I vetoed it because to home­school in Alaba­ma, you HAVE to work with an “umbrel­la” school — usu­al­ly a reli­gious one. Ick!

    (See any lin­ger­ing Ital­ian?)

  4. Ya know, as over­crowd­ed as so many schools are, you’d think folks would see home­school­ing as a pres­sure release.

    And the only lin­ger­ing Ital­ian I see now is me, and I’m only half 🙂

  5. Every year, the NEA pub­lish­es a screed against home­school­ing. The big issue is the loss of con­trol of stu­dents who will not be indoc­tri­nat­ed into their ide­ol­o­gy.

    Even the government/political types who are in favor of home­school­ing often get freaky about peo­ple who aren’t like them doing it. They cer­tain­ly don’t want to con­sid­er how many lit­tle hea­thens are avoid­ing de fac­to Chris­tiniz­ing in gov­ern­ment schools!

  6. I won­der how many school vouch­er bills would­n’t go to vote if the mon­ey could be applied to home school­ing expens­es?

  7. I have tried both dis­tance learn­ing and class­room learn­ing, both have advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. Dis­tance learn­ing is good for strong mind­ed indi­vid­u­als who have the dri­ve and deter­mi­na­tion to fol­low the course to the let­ter and make sure they com­mit them­selves to com­plet­ing the tasks with­out any prompt­ing. Many peo­ple need the sup­port and encour­age­ment a class­room atmos­phere can bring, a class­room envi­ron­ment is a good place to brush up on social skills which may have been lost. Dis­tance or remote learn­ing does have some advan­tages over onsite learn­ing and this is time tak­en to get to a course, it also allows a stu­dent to fit in the lessons as suit­ed to their free time. Per­son­al­ly I would rather take class­room lessons and enjoy not only the top­ic but also the social inter­ac­tiv­i­ty between oth­er like-mind­ed stu­dents

  8. Yes true dis­tance learn­ing suits dif­fer­ent peo­ple at dif­fer­ent stages in life. It’s only con­vinient based on what one is doing at the time, what com­pro­mis­es and sac­ri­fices one has to make etc. For exam­ple dis­tance learn­ing is def­i­nite­ly con­vinient and appeal­ing to an employ­ee who is offered to learn while they work, espe­cial­ly dur­ing work­ing hours. Thus they don’t have to leave work to rush to a class­room after work at the expense of their fam­i­ly and oth­er per­son­al oblig­a­tions.

    When they talk about social iso­la­tion in dis­tance learn­ing, I think this is spe­cial­ly address­ing the young learn­ers, tee­negers and those start­ing col­lege. For this group of peo­ple, dis­tance learn­ing may not be suit­able to them because part of their rea­son for going to col­lege is for the phys­i­cal, social con­nec­tion and inter­ac­tion with oth­ers, to inter­act with peers and build rela­tion­ships. With dis­tance learn­ing, most often one is study­ing alone. Thus this young group of learn­ers may feel iso­lat­ed or miss that social phys­i­cal inter­ac­tion that comes with attend­ing a tra­di­tion­al class­room.

    A key fac­tor to suc­cess­ful online learn­ing is moti­va­tion. A learn­er needs to be self-dri­ven and an inde­pen­dent thinker who enjoys work­ing alone. Being moti­vat­ed means that one needs to be inter­est­ed in the cours­es and pro­gram, keep in touch with the instruc­tor, class­mates, read­ings etc and see the light at the end of the tun­nel. Unmo­ti­vat­ed learn­ers or those with poor study habits often fall behind in their online cours­es.

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