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.


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