Education is essential to the future of our society. Many adults, including scholars and teachers, are constantly searching for the best way to educate students today. Face-to-face education, being the genuine form, seems to be the first choice of many students. However, online education is becoming more popular and is being used more often at universities. Online courses are convenient for some who have busy schedules which obstruct them from attending face-to-face courses. Online education may be the most convenient form of education, but is it an effective form? Several valid arguments have been made by scholars and other individuals claiming it meets both of these standards. The main question students and scholars would like to know is whether or not one form is better than the other.
There are several differences between online and face-to-face education. Lecture classrooms are common in universities. They are an easy way to teach a large number of students at once, however, many students dislike lectures because it places them in the majority. In a lecture classroom setting, students may not have the chance to communicate with the professor or even their peers. Students may feel shy and intimidated by the amount of people around them. The online discussions, chat rooms, and e-mail features in web-based classes makes it virtually impossible to avoid communication with fellow students or teachers. The social barriers which exist in face-to-face communication often seem to be non-existent in online communication and students feel a lot less pressured to speak up, or should I say “type up”.
Online communication, however, does not allow for nonverbal cues and this tends to limit the quality of certain discussions and lecture notes. Some students may feel they need to be face-to-face with the person teaching them in order to better understand and comprehend the material being presented. Being able to hear what the professor has to say can draw the attention of some and distract the attention of others, sometimes depending on the excellence of the professor. Students are encouraged to try web classes if they have trouble learning from what they hear and find it easier to comprehend what they read.
The convenience of online learning is possibly its most brilliant quality. Students find it practical that they can attend a class while sitting in the comfort of their own home. Soldiers, pregnant women, and others with tight schedules are all able to complete their course work in a timely manner through web-based courses. A man who works full time as an assistant at law firm and wants to continue working, while attending classes so he can become a lawyer himself, may want to take online courses instead of face-to-face in order to accomplish both goals. I think situations like this one makes online learning brilliant since it opens doors of opportunity to certain people. By posting information in discussion forums up to several times a day, professors can keep students working, but the students can respond when they have the chance.
Online courses allow convenience for time and patience also. Think about the amount of time you spend driving to school and walking to classes, or the frustration of trying to get to a class on time while searching for a parking space in which you won’t be towed or ticketed. I spend up to twenty minutes of some school days driving in my car, congested with my vulgarity and frustration, searching for a parking space. Even with the beauty of all its aspects, some say convenience should not be an alternative to higher education. “Even though convenience is a positive attribute about the online classroom, it may not be enough to provide for the social and educational needs of students.” (Barakat) Students have claimed that they like the idea of not having to attend class “but disliked the process of communicating in a delayed, impersonal manner.”(Barakat)
Through my online education experience, I have found that there are benefits and disadvantages communicating on the web. Since times and meeting places are not specified in online group work, members of the group cannot make excuses on why they cannot attend. The assignments can be worked on by each group member on their own time. The group members can then cooperate with one another through postings or e-mail to equally combine their contributions.
We don’t have to worry about the group members who did not participate receiving credit (as commonly happens in in-class group work) because we submit only the names of those who participated in the assignment. Having experienced both online and face-to-face education, I have come to the popular opinion: Online education has its positive aspects in relation to convenience and quantity of communication, however, I believe that face-to-face education produces better quality of communication which, in the end, is more essential to the learning process.
Online education is convenient and can grant students opportunity to communicate more often with their professors and peers through postings and mail forums. Face-to-face education allows students to learn in a more personal nature which may make the learning process easier and more enjoyable. Neither form of education has been declared the right, or best form. Different individuals have varied beliefs and opinions on which type of education is the best. In order to form an opinion as to which form of education is best for you develop a hypothesis and then experiment by experiencing both forms. Finally, ask yourself, “Is online education as effective as traditional face-to-face education?”
Barakat., Dr. Samer A. On-line Education Versus Classroom Face To Face Education. www.sharjah.ac.ae/academic/engineering/e-forum/Abstracts-htm/a2-4.htm#.
Kindred, Jeannette. Thinking About the Online Classroom: Evaluating the “Ideal” Versus the “Real”. www.acjournal.org/holdings/vol3/Iss3/rogue4/kindred.html.
Chamberlin, Sean W. Face-to-Face vs. Cyberspace: Finding the Middle Ground. Syllabus Magazine. Thu., Mar. 4, 2004.
J. R. Bourne, A. J. Brodersen, J. O., A Model for On-Line Learning Networks in Engineering Education, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 85, No 3