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Online classes are detrimental to the learning process

While no specific hours might be more convenient, no face-time between professors and students is bad for education.

Despite the convenience of not having a set class time, there are many negative elements to taking an online class.

Despite the convenience of not having a set class time, there are many negative elements to taking an online class.

Illustration by Grant Hermanns

Illustration by Grant Hermanns

Despite the convenience of not having a set class time, there are many negative elements to taking an online class.


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Following another long week, it’s Sunday evening and after going through a mental checklist of things to finish before the Monday morning sun rises over the horizon, you’re struck with the realization that you’ve forgotten something — your online class, yet again.

This has happened to me more times than I care to count and is a symptom of online-class-induced laziness rather than a lack of time management. Online classes do not provide the interaction and stimulation necessary to make students feel fully involved or invested in a course.

As a result, assignments, discussion boards and more drop lower and lower on the list of priorities of an already-busy student body, with a higher likelihood of being forgotten altogether.

There are certainly advantages to online classes for students with extenuating circumstances and this is not intended to discredit students who take advantage of online classes to better themselves and further their education.

However, for full-time students who are already on campus for a majority of their courses, online classes are a detriment. They detract from the key social aspect of taking classes at the university level, reduce student and faculty accountability in regards to the course and undermine the value of the faculty and instructors at an institution.

This becomes increasingly true at the upper division level. As college students, we need to realize that our most valuable connections are the ones made with others. A university is the perfect place to connect with peers and instructors in meaningful ways that can be valuable as you strive toward personal and professional goals.

Approaching professors is daunting enough for many students in the traditional classroom setting, but the lack of face-to-face interaction in online classes can diminish the possibility of reaching out for help or seeking clarification for more timid students. Professors for online courses tend to be less accessible, and shy students are not likely to take the extra steps needed to meet with an instructor in person. The larger reality of this situation  is that online classes may disadvantage students who might not be as well-equipped to succeed in college level classes.

A 2017 study conducted by the Brookings Institution – a nonprofit research institute focused on public policy and problem-solving through research – revealed that online classes may actually be failing the very students they are often marketed toward, such as those who are less prepared for a college-level workload and are statistically less likely to complete their degree.

“The academic disparities that arise when comparing the students’ performance in in-person courses versus online courses are stark,” a summary of the study reports. “The study found that those who take online courses are likely to score 0.44 points lower on a 4.0 GPA scale. If a student earned a B-minus when taking an in-person class, the study found that student would have earned a C online, on average.”

At the end of the day in an academic setting, letter grades have a significant bearing on a students’ prospects for graduate studies. This is a reality that educational institutions must grapple with by constantly reconsidering what methods of instruction are best for students in the long run.

According to a summary of a 2014 study done at MIT: “The one type of class in which students learned even more effectively than in either online or traditional classes, the study found, was an approach called “interactive engagement pedagogy,” where students interact frequently in small groups to grapple with concepts and questions.”

Innovations in education and traditional class structures do not need to coincide with technological advancements. There are ways to advance classrooms that do not involve simply moving all of the material online. This includes the strategy mentioned by the MIT study, where students working in smaller groups in a hybrid classroom setting benefited from greater knowledge retention and better learning outcomes. Is this an example of a more complex class structure? Sure. Is it one worth investing in if it is consistently helping students learn? Sure. In short, sacrificing a comprehensive learning experience for the sake of convenience only ends up disadvantaging students in the long run.

College is not meant to be convenient: it is long days and difficult classes that require you to be present and fully invested in order to make the most of your education. This process is what will allow students to reap the greatest rewards – whatever those may be – from their time at Long Beach State.

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