Online or in person? Most colleges have both options available depending upon which works better for the student. Online classes offer flexibility but lack interactivity with the professor and the class. The lecture setting allows students to have open discussions in the classroom with everyone.
According to an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, Pierce College, located in Philadelphia, decided to change the norm of picking between one and the other by offering both an online and lecture option for classes. When implemented, the school noticed a drop in absenteeism.
The “blended classroom,” a lectured class along with an online option, has shown to reduce student absenteeism, but may take away interactivity with the professor and other students.
Pierce College noticed a drop from 10.4 percent to 1.4 percent in the number of absences in class. The students at Pierce plan to use the online option of the course as a sense of security when they have to miss class, and this way they will not fall behind on the course material.
According to the article, students at Pierce who had to miss class felt a sense of anxiety of falling behind. Having the online option, would allow some relief for them if they had to miss class for sickness, child care issues or other reasons.
Thomas Gillespie, who works at the Instructional Technology Department at NMU, said having a “blend” of both an online and lecture class could be better for the students’ learning in the long run. Gillespie has worked at NMU for six years and his department provides technological support, primarily EduCat, forprofessors.
Professors could record 15-20 minutes of a lecture and post it on EduCat so that later on while studying, students have the option of going online and reviewing what was taught, Gillespie said.
“This isn’t the same as being in the classroom,” Gillespie said. Having these pre-recorded lectures could really come in handy when there are guest speakers or even snow days, Gillespie added.
“The best format is blended. I think it’s better for math and science, but it depends on the class,” Gillespie said.
Communications and performance studies professor Mark Shevy agrees that having a little bit of both can be a useful learning method. Shevy has been teaching Mass Communication and Society as an online summer course for the past five years.
This semester Shevy did the online/lecture teaching method in his video production class.
While in the class, he gave a summary of the concept of the course, and then posted that video on EduCat for the students that wanted another perspective or additional details.
“They [the students] can pause the video when their mind wanders, and they can re-watch sections to make sure their notes are correct,”Shevy said.
Shevy also said that this “blended” classroom may also depend on what kind of student someone is.
“Some students are better able to focus in a classroom because they get distracted or need a structured schedule, but others do fine on their own,” Shevy said.
While Shevy notices the benefits of an online course, he also said that with a lecture, the students get a better feel for the class, the professor, and the other students. In the lecture setting, students have the benefit of being surrounded by others, able to start and join in open discussions, see the sights around the room and are aware of the others learning, Shevy said.
“Such experiences have helped me remember information from lectures. And sometimes they are just memories that make me smile and shake my head,” Shevy said.
Shevy also said having the “blended” classroom may cause a little extra work for the professors doing it.
“It just takes extra work for the instructor and students, so the question is whether there’s enough benefit to warrant the amount of work it takes,” Shevy said.
Junior graphic communications major Audrey Larsen said that she prefers lecture courses over online.
“Online courses, for me, cause too much procrastination and it’s better to have face-to-face contact for discussion,” Larsen said.
But while she may prefer lecture courses, Larsen does agree online courses have their benefits.
“You can go your pace, and go ahead if you understand a concept instead of sitting there listening to the same information over again,” Larsen said.
Being a transfer student who came to NMU from Bay College in Escanaba, Larsen has had the “blended”classroom before in her sociology class.
“I really liked that option,” Larsen said.
Larsen also said grades were affected with this option because if the students had a question, misunderstood something in the lecture or zoned off during the class, they could go back and watch the video posted and be reassured they had the right information and do the course work confidently.