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Due to the development of technology in the recent years, schools started increasing their diversity rates by making some of their educational programs available all-online. Online education provides students the opportunity of attending college courses and getting a degree regardless of whether they live in a different country, and work a full-time job. It doesn’t matter if they are a part of the army and are always gone on duties, or have to take care of their children during the whole day.
All they have to do is log into a learning platform on the web where they are provided all of the information they need for each course they take and keep track of important dates, and also homework assignments, quizzes, exams, projects, and essays they have to turn it throughout the semester. There they can check their grades and access the school material traditional students get in class.
Online education allows you to be more flexible with your time and everything you have to take care of during the day.
It allows you to decide by yourself how much time you need to study a certain lesson or prepare for an exam. If you are a fast-learning student, maybe you don’t need all of the time you would spend in the classroom, to get ready for an exam, so instead you can just use a portion of that time and use the rest to do something else that you need. It provides people with a 24/7 hours a day, 7 days a week access to course materials, and along with that the opportunity to study at their own pace enjoying the comfort of their own home.
Online education can definitely save of your time, and make you more productive on a daily basis. It can make your schedule so flexible that you would be able to balance your education with your work and family life easier. After attending Saint Joseph’s College on-campus and leaving in 2014, I came back home to Bulgaria to turn my childhood dream of being a professional basketball player into a reality. I signed my first professional deal that year.
One year later I realized I need to finish my education so I know I can always get a good job after I’m done playing basketball for a living. That made me take advantage of the system called online education. I transferred to Northwestern State University of Louisiana a year ago with the goal of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Systems. Studying from distance was something new and I did not know what to expect but I was definitely excited to start this new chapter of my life that would lead me to my goal of graduating. It was like a good opportunity that was knocking on my door, so I had to answer. Although, the availability of online education provided me with the opportunity to turn my dream of graduating from college into a reality, I’ve faced a lot of adversity continuing walking on the path towards my bachelor’s degree.
Like everything else in life, online education has both its positive and negative sides. The main problem I’ve encountered was the slow communication with my professors at NSU, communication that was missing a face-to-face dialogue. In my opinion that is one of the biggest disadvantages of distance learning. Instead of going to my professors’ office hours or simply raising a hand during lecture or class, and have what I do not understand explained to me by the professor or my fellow students, I had to learn to write emails. Every concern, question or request I have can only be answered if I write an email and address that to my professor. Though, that process slows up the communication between the student and the professor a lot. According to a survey which results were mentioned in the book Preparing Educators for Online Learning by Stacy Hendricks and Scott Bailey, “students felt like they had limited access to the professor”. Those who were surveyed also claimed that “the professor was the missing link within the online course”.
That being said complicated communication seems to be a problem that appears among online college students, and is a factor that affects students’ performance in school. Therefore, college instructors should think of taking actions so their students can be as successful as they could regardless of their distance from the college classroom. A possible solution to the communication between students and teachers problem can be transferring some of the professors’ office hours to the web by inventing online conference meetings. Traditional face-to-face students get to attend office hours or just stay after class to ask questions, get help on their homework and lessons, and get everything they do not understand explained to them. Since online students cannot do that they could benefit from those conference calls once or twice a week, and get help on their school work as well.
The creator of the first online network in distance education, Michael G. Moore, stated that distance education is not simply a geographical separation of learners and teachers, but, more importantly that distance education is a pedagogical concept”. He believed that because there is a psychological and communication space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of an instructor and those of a learner”. Michael G. Moore called that psychological and communication gap transactional distance. The bigger the transactional distance the tougher the course becomes to certain students, and the more difficult it becomes for teachers to interact with students and help them with understanding the course material. In his book, Moore also defined dialogue as one of the three variables that determine the extent of transactional distance. According to the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education, “more dialogue with teacher and other students will lead to improvements in student understanding of the subject matter under study”.
In my opinion the invention of online conference meetings can decrease the psychological and communication gap between students and professors. It could also be a good alternative for a face-to-face dialogue because both sides would be able to see each other. Being an online student for the past one year let me experience the transactional distance M. G. Moore theorized in his Theoretical Principles of Distance Education book, without even knowing that such a term existed. Communication became more complicated and time consuming since the dialogue between me and my professors is missing, and the only way I can really communicate is via email.
That made me learn to write emails whenever I need to get in contact with my professors—either if I need help for my homework assignments or if I have any questions related to the course. The communication gap kind of affected my performance in school, and that is why I think college instructors should think of transferring some of their office hours to the web by offering online conference meetings with their students. That way not only traditional students can get course material explained to them better, but every student that wants to be successful in the certain course, regardless of his distance to the classroom.
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