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Distance Education Versus Face-to-Face Learning Essay

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December 1 , 2009 Persuasive Essay – Game Theories Has Virtual Reality Taken Things Too Far? Distance Education versus Face-to-Face Learning In Clive Thompson’s “Game Theories”, the author illustrates how virtual worlds, such as Everquest and Second Life, have surprisingly become much like the real world. Everquest is an online virtual reality video game that allows individuals to create fictional characters to “generate goods as they play, often by killing creatures for their treasure and trading it” (Thompson 332).

This has created an economy-like setting in he game but has eventually evolved to leak into the real world economy by exchanging real money for the purchase of virtual characters and their winnings.

Thompson’s article shows how the line between virtual reality and real world reality often becomes blurry, encouraging people to consider ways where virtual technology can enhance and possibly replace the current systems already in place. However, not everything done through computers and virtual technology are as effective as one thinks. Sometimes, the traditional way of doing things are perfectly fine and more effective Just the way they are.

Distance education, in particular, is a phenomenon that has been a growing popular alternative to traditional face-to-face education. I am here to argue that learning behind a computer at home cannot effectively replace the traditional face- to-face education offered at colleges and universities. Difficulty in self-directed learning and instructional misunderstandings can occur in any online course, a lack of a set schedule allows for distractions and procrastination, non-existent interaction inhibits growth and learning, and the probability of cheating is greater among online tudents versus campus students.

Although there are many people who favor the online-learning alternative, this paper will challenge their confidence and counter- arguments on the issue. Distance education can be quite difficult. There are several courses that have concepts that can be quite tricky and complicated to understand, especially if one is learning on their own using a textbook. Shelia Tucker, an assistant professor at East Carolina University, stated that “students learn far too little when the teacher’s personal presence is not available because the student has far more to learn from he teacher than texts” (par. 2).

For example, an accounting teacher can easily explain the advanced calculation of earnings per share and diluted earnings per share through the use of their own methods and organizational charts. Learning the same topic but reading texts from a course book can be quite challenging without a teacher to provide tips and tricks for remembering the formulas. As I am an accounting student aspiring to be a CGA, I am tremendously afraid of entering their factors influencing completion and non-completion of community college online ourses, “students indicated that online learning did not fit their learning style preference.

Comments were received from students that they could not get a response from their instructor, the materials were not available, and the course was confusing” (Aragon & Johnson 155). Because of the difficulty experienced in online courses, “some community colleges are reporting drop-out rates 20% higher than in face-to- face classrooms” (Aragon & Johnson 146). Another drawback of online learning is the lack of a set schedule. Without a fixed timetable, the opportunity for distractions and procrastination often presents itself. These online courses require motivation and self-discipline to complete the courses and programs in a timely manner.

This will be especially hard for those who tend to procrastinate and need the extra push from teachers to complete the work or require constant reminders of assignment due dates and examination dates. Because the online courses are quite flexible, these courses can often be put on the “backburner”, because the students are aware that some of these courses are self-paced. One major downfall of distance education is non-existent interaction that results from learning and working behind a computer. Communication with the teacher is limited to text correspondences and even replies to the emails may be delayed.

Comparing this scenario to a classroom course, questions are answered and uncertainties are clarified immediately after the teacher is asked. There is no personal attention given to students and these learners are expected to find their own resources for completing assignments. Not only is interaction limited with teachers, but interaction with other students is limited as well. Randy S. Hanson, Ph. D. , made a point that the only interaction with classmates are through email, chat ooms and discussion boards. Parties and offline get-togethers [were] rarely experienced among online students (par. 17).

In her article about the controversy of distance education, Roda Joanna Abaya asserts that “students do not learn only on formal and educational conversations. As social beings, it is important that they too interact with others and have informal talks or converse with lighter topics” (par. 8). Another concern that Abaya has about distance education is the lack of hands-on training in online courses (par. 7). Interaction with people and objects are vital in the earning process and because of these missing components in online courses, the effectiveness of education falls short when compared to the traditional face-to-face classes.

According to an article about academic honesty in online courses, “some claim that because students and faculty do not interact directly in such classes, online classes will invite more cheating than traditional classes” (GriJalva, Therese C. et al. par. 2). This is certainly true in that distance education is being carried out at home, away from teacher supervision. Anne Mullens exclaims that “cheating appears to be ncreasing at universities, especially at the larger campuses and impersonal classes… ” (23). In an examination of cheating in both traditional and online criminal justice and legal studies courses, Lanier (2006) found the behavior to be more common in online courses” (Dobbs, Rhonda R. et al 13). Who knows how many students cheat during an online exam, having their books open in front of them while actual student writing the exam? Cheating is unethical and universally wrong but there are many students who cannot help themselves from getting all the help they can get to score the good grades. There are several counter arguments that can be raised against the thesis of this paper.

After “googling” and researching the pros of distance education, the recurring and most significant point was the flexibility of online courses. There are no set class times and it is the student’s discretion when to complete the assignments and readings so those with busy schedules are able to accommodate education. Stephen Downes states that there is “more work in the distance ed version… simply because it tries to make up for the lack of any class contact” (par. 1). I have heard students and riends complain about the amount of work required for the online LIBS 7001 course at BCIT, where as the in-class version compares much favorably.

With the course load being heavy for online courses, the flexibility to dedicate time to other priorities is hindered with the stress of work to be done for distance education. Some argue that online learning benefits those who requires more time, are language challenged, or are introverted. But on the contrary, it hinders rather than allows growth and learning. Those who require more time will always have that excuse to fall back on. Next thing they know, a year has passed since having started the course.

The things learned at the beginning of the on-line class will have been forgotten and time would have been wasted. Those who are foreign students that struggle with the language barrier would benefit much more with an available teacher who is able to give them personal attention and needed help. To leave them on their own, trying to understand the course concepts from a textbook or a set of written notes can leave them overwhelmed and confused. Even those who are shy do not gain any benefit for enrolling in online courses. In fact, it is more of a detriment to their development and knowledge.

Attending campuses and universities allows students to interact with classmates, and even encourages group projects to develop team buildings skills for individuals. At BCIT, students are often required to do presentations in front of the class and even in lecture halls. This is because the real world will often put people in similar situations and the training for that is attained easily when attending school on campus. This will also develop individuals’ interpersonal skills, and will help them overcome any shyness they may have. Another counter argument that can be raised is that costs are reduced when taking distance education.

Not only are travel costs and commuting time decreased, but the necessary housing costs and meal plans are also saved if one is required to move to campus for attending university. However, the “cost of training teachers, the cost of hardware and software, human resources such as technicians and other people involved are to be considered, we can say that establishing online education is not as cheap as it may seem for others” (Abaya par. 6). These costs will certainly rickle down to the students, eventually having them pay through the increasing course fees.

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