Sunday, June 30, 2019

Evaluating Taking Online Courses while Enrolled in College

A recent Education Dive article, "Community college students more likely to take, prefer online classes", dug into how online courses have become an alternative for in-person classes. For example, students in community colleges were four times more likely than four-year college students to have recently taken an online course. In addition, researchers found that "Community college students who prefer entirely or mostly online classes tend to be those who are women, work, are married or in a domestic partnership, or have dependents". In other words, those who carry significant life responsibilities in addition to academic work prefer to enroll in online courses.

While the article was subjective and did not carry any sort of viewpoints, I do want to provide some student opinions in this posting regarding the two facts stated in the above paragraph.

As a student at a four-year college, we enroll in courses for the next semester a few months before the end of the current semester. During enrollment last semester, I realized that for the five classes I was prescribed to enroll in, three of those had an online option. It was actually mind-boggling because my "potential class schedule" looked like I only had classes 2 days a week. While having this flexible option is excellent for students who work concurrently with their studies, I opted to take all 5 of my courses with in-person instruction.

Points that led to my decision

  1. Online courses require a great deal of self-discipline. Since it has greater flexibility, students often find themselves falling behind in online courses. 
  2. The level of difficulty and quantity of coursework are similar to an in-person class (at least it should be). While many students do try to take online courses as an "easier, or less work" option, this is usually a fallacy. For example, many online courses still require students to write the same essays as the in-person class. The difference is that an instructor grades your work remotely.
  3. The quality of education is lower. Like I stated above, an instructor grades your work remotely, meaning that students lose many opportunities for academic advising. 
  4. The cost is similar to an in-person class if you are already enrolled in a community or four-year college. Many schools simply charge you a full-time semester fee or on a per-credit basis. Since online courses are supposed to be a legitimate/accredited alternative to in-person courses, the workload and credits must be identical. My opinion is that if I am paying tens of thousands to attend college already, I might as well get my money's worth by sitting in a classroom.
  5. Less networking opportunities. Simply put, online courses have less student-professor interactions. These interactions can prove to be extremely valuable networking opportunities. 
While I did list many points against online courses above, I do recognize that sometimes the benefits of having more flexibility may be more important than the reasons above. The purpose of this article is to hopefully educate students to make more sound decisions in choosing an online course and not to just take it cause it is an easier course. Before making any rash course decisions, I highly recommend speaking to an academic advisor first.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Flipped Classroom

Numerous teachers are constantly looking for new ways to teach and engage their students in order to enhance their learning experience. One of the techniques that resulted from this search is a concept known as “the flipped classroom.” This concept came about when Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, chemistry teachers at Woodland Park High School at the time, were looking for a way to keep absent students up to date in class without having to reteach lessons. They decided to record their lessons, include annotations, and then post them online. This way, students who were absent in class on a particular day could see what they had missed online. Bergmann and Sams later noticed that even students who had attended class found the online material useful, and used this to discover a new way of teaching.

Several teachers around the world have since adopted the “flipped classroom” technique. While not all use an identical approach, the common principle is for students to learn what would previously have been taught in class at home through lesson videos the teacher creates. Then class time would be used to work through problems pertaining to the topic covered in the videos as well as concepts people had difficulty understanding. Students are able to work with the teacher or with their peers, creating a more active and engaging learning environment.

My experience with this form of learning came in the 10th grade when my chemistry teacher decided to test it out during the second semester. She, along with the other teachers in the chemistry department, created a work packet that had practice problems for all the topics we would cover that semester. Each night, we were assigned videos to watch and take notes on that her fellow teacher had created and uploaded to YouTube. These videos, similar to those found on Khan Academy, were of a black screen where the instructor would write down important points, formulas, or examples as she taught. The next day in class, the teacher would briefly go over any area there seemed to be general confusion in. Then each student would work on the section in their packet that correlated to the videos we had watched the night before, while asking each other or the teacher for help when needed.

I really enjoyed that semester of learning in the class. The “flipped classroom” method allowed me to have a deeper encoding of the material I was learning because it was almost like I was teaching myself the material. It did pose its challenges, such as when the lesson video was difficult to follow, but since I had access to the Internet while watching it, I was able to search the web for clarifications and take my own time until I understood. This method was not a success with all students, however. This is due to the fact that some students work better with the freedom and independence the flipped classroom offers, while some students are more successful under a more structured learning environment. It is also not appropriate for all subjects, suiting subjects like mathematics and science more. While the “flipped classroom” is not for everyone, there are students that can greatly benefit from it. If there can be a structured way to implement it into the learning environment of the students it is effective for, then their learning experience could be vastly improved.

Read more on the “flipped classroom” here:

To read more on the "flipped classroom" in our blog:

Monday, June 10, 2019

"Computers in the Classroom May Do More Harm Than Good-- If They Are Overused" by Tom Jacobs

New research finds that computers are most effective as teaching tools when used sparingly, and to teach kids at certain ages specific subjects.

Initiatives to provide every schoolchild with a laptop or tablet computer have, to date, been well-publicized failures. And perhaps they were bad ideas to begin with.
Computers can certainly be effective tools for teaching children of certain ages specific subjects. But a large new study suggests their presence in the classroom is far from universally positive.

"Students worldwide appear to perform best on tests when they report a low-to-moderate use of school computers," Helen Lee Bouygues, president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, argues in a just-released report.
"When students report having access to classroom computers and using these devices on an infrequent basis, they show better performance," Bouygues writes. "But when students report using these devices every day, and for several hours during the school day, performance lowers dramatically."
The Reboot Foundation is a non-profit devoted to "cultivating a capacity for critical thinking." Its new report suggests that, while computers can sometimes help children grasp certain concepts, their overuse is highly worrisome.
Bouygues analyzed data from two sources: the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which provided math and reading scores for American fourth- and eighth-graders, and the Program for International Student Assessment, which provided data from 30 nations.
After taking into account various factors that could affect student achievement, including household income, teacher training on the use of computers in education, and (for the international students) the size of the nation's economy, she identified several disturbing trends.
"Across most countries, a low to moderate use of school technology was generally associated with better performance, relative to students reporting no computer use at all," Bouygues writes. "But students who reported a high use of school technology trailed behind peers who reported moderate use."
For instance, students in France who reported using the Internet at school for a few minutes to a half-hour every day scored 13 points higher on the PISA reading assessment than students who reported spending no time on the Internet at school. Meanwhile, French students who were online in school for more than 30 minutes per day consistently scored lower than their peers on that same test.
A similar pattern was found for American youngsters. "Fourth-grade students who reported using laptops or desktop computers in more than half or all of their classes scored 10 points higher than students who reported never using those devices in class," the report states.
But the overuse of computers seems to have produced diminishing, and finally counterproductive, results.
"We found evidence of a learning-technology 'ceiling effect' in some areas, with low to moderate usage showing a positive relationship, while high usage showed a negative relationship [with student achievement]," Bouygues writes. "The results regarding tablet use in fourth-grade classes were particularly worrisome. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in all or almost all classes scored 14 points lower on the reading exam than students who reported never using classroom tablets. This difference in scores is equivalent to a full grade level, or a year's worth of teaching."
These results do not prove causation, but they're certainly cautionary.
"While there's clear evidence that technology can improve learning outcomes," the report concludes, "our data suggests that technology may not always be used in a way that prompts richer forms of learning. Our findings indicate schools and teachers should be more careful about when—and how—education technology is employed in classrooms."
So by all means bring an apple for the teacher. But that Apple for the student should spend the bulk of the school day switched off.
Shared by Michele Straube
Article by Tom Jacobs