North Lake College's News Register recently inquired into the issue of whether the home represents as effective a learning environment as does the classroom. "Even though the traditional face-to-face lecture classes are a major part of attending college," the article reports,
the popularity of distance learning classes continues to rise.... With classes like computer science, biology, business studies, Spanish and even physical fitness offered online, many students seem to have opted to enroll in the online courses rather than attending lectures two to three times a week.
The article goes on to list some of the benefits of distance learning. These include:
But the folks at The News Register don't think online learning is flawless. They claim that students frequently labor under the mistaken conception that online courses are easier than their traditional counterparts. Distance learning students also miss out on the classroom environment; online instructors seldom get to know their students personally. And they miss out on getting to know their peers; they cannot connect with their classmates as they would in a more traditional setting.
The News Register article highlights the fact that it is often a lack of commitment to deadlines that keeps online students from succeeding as thoroughly as they ought. Online classes frequently fail to provide the "constant push to finish the assignments." Therefore "online classes can be unsuccessful for students who are procrastinators."
The News Register article both informs and enlightens. Colleges and universities with distance learning programs should do more to foster a sense of community among their students and faculty. They should also make it a point to provide additional support and coaching for those students who seem to be falling behind in their studies. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder to get the most wayward student back on the track to academic success.