Online Education Offers Flexibility for All Students
November 17, 2005 7:18 PM
Over the years, the World Wide Web has become a widely-available commodity, and SF State has attempted to accommodate this advancement by offering courses that incorporate online participation.
The integration of education and the Internet has been an important academic tool at SF State since 1997. The advantage of technology has made it possible for students and faculty to use the Internet in countless ways to better facilitate student learning.
Blackboard is SF State’s main online course management system designed to assist instructors and students by providing accessible copyrighted educational materials, online quizzes, and discussion board that are usually used in traditional in class lectures. There is also “hybrid blended learning” in which 30 – 80 percent of the course is offered online with the requirement that students and the instructor only meet for a few class sessions. SF State offers about 20 full online courses in which more than 80 percent of instruction is offered online and cannot exceed more than three face to face class meetings.
Online education expert Brian Beatty, estimates that 70 percent of SF State courses use one of the online systems provided by the campus to extend their coursework beyond the classroom environment. He said that online courses may increase the amount of educational resources available to more people and provide a more engaging learning experience for students.
“Online education has expanded opportunities for teaching and learning to many people, in many cultures, across the borders of time and geography, in various professional contexts. I believe and hope (that) we will see more effective and engaged lifelong learners around the world as a result,” said Beatty, an assistant professor of Informational Technology.
Students enrolled in a full online course or a “hybrid blended learning” course are students who usually need a much more open school schedule to cater to their personal lives.
Kevin Kelly, online teaching and learning coordinator at the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development at SF State, has been helping promote online education to faculty members in all departments. He has been the leader in developing superior and fresh online education to enhance courses at the university and believes that there is a prominent future for online education.
“SFSU has the most non traditional students,” said Kelly. “Over 80 percent work at least half the time, while other people have other obligations like taking care of their family members, or their children. Then there are people who live far and they need to be in a class where some of the course is partly or fully online.”
Kelly said the demand has increased for the online environment because it provides flexibility for students.
Professor of Management Monique Pelletier-Harrison is currently teaching a completely online course on management and organizational behavior. Compared to traditional in-class settings, Harrison said online courses are particularly demanding on both students and professors. She said her online course requires her attention seven days a week to teach the course, answer student’s e-mails and work with students online. She praises online education for its usefulness to students with a tight schedule, but warns that online courses are not a breeze to pass.
“Students underestimate the demands of online course,” said Harrison. “They save the material without studying it until the day before the tests…I have taken three online classes myself and I experienced first hand the demands and the discipline necessary to take an online class.”
There are still some instructors who are hesitant to wholly place their student’s education on the Internet. Professor Mary Scott teaches a class on instructional video, that requires a lot of hands on work with cameras and lights.
“We have a good time and lot of that has to do with the interaction, I believe students learn a lot from each other ... I’m concerned how that will be possible online,” Scott said. “It mostly has to do with interaction – supposedly there is still possible interaction online, but in my experience it’s very stilted.”
Scott’s hesitance has not completely warded her off from online education, as she is corresponding with Kelly about the possibility of using the Internet to assist her in teaching her course.
A study done at California State University, Northridge, examined “virtual students,” who were enrolled in online courses versus students in traditional classes and found that virtual students scored 20 points higher on exams than students who attended in class lectures.
Despite the numbers, SF State student Maria Villagonzalo has difficulty absorbing the online lectures and prefers to actually sit in class. Her decision to be part of an online course was due to her busy schedule, but she said this semester has been a little more difficult because she is a virtual student.
“I just don’t feel like I really get full ideas of what the lectures are,” said Villagonzalo. “My professor supplies everything for us online and I just sit there reading and not really being able to immediately communicate what it is I want to say. There’s no interaction.”
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