Kurtis Swope, an associate professor at the US Naval Academy, describes unexpectedly running into a former student at a local restaurant. Their conversation is brief—mainly about the student’s courses that semester and his plans following graduation. Although the encounter is pleasant, it leaves Swope with an unsettling feeling: “After we talked, it occurred to me that I had heard him speak more during this short conversation than he had during the entire semester he took my course.”
In the traditional classroom, students enter a tangible space, perhaps a classroom just like Swope’s. They eye the formal arrangement of the desks, the teacher, the sea of unfamiliar faces—and from that, they begin to draw conclusions about the experience before they’ve even, well, experienced it. What students also bring with them is a colossal fear of public speaking, a fear of being wrong—or “stupid”—and a fear of not being able to fully articulate their ideas. As a result, the most talkative students clamor on while the coy, and often the most insightful, students hide in the back.
In a virtual classroom, however, students—all of them—must learn to share themselves. They must engage with their professor and their peers. It would be inaccurate to claim that online education exists in a vacuum, or that all hang-ups are left at the login page. What can be said, however, is that the online leaning space nurtures a culture of “online language,” one which both students and instructors must work together to negotiate. eLearning gets rid of the one-size-fits-all model. It is certainly true that 24-hour login gives students convenience. But it also gives them the time and space to grapple with their ideas as well as those of their peers and professor. This model discourages impulsive thinking and instead promotes mindful reflection, allowing students to fully digest their thoughts before sharing them with the group.
Five more reasons why the online learning environment is effective:
- It uses a student-centered approach to teaching. Virtual classrooms break down the teacher-student hierarchy; communicating with professors online is much less intimidating than in the office or the traditional classroom.
- It offers convenience of being able to read and reread discussion-board posts, lectures and notes anytime of the day or week.
- It defies borders and geography. Students who live in areas where there are limited possibilities can pursue higher education regardless of where they reside. eLearning also gives students the chance to interact with a more diverse student body.
- It diffuses preconceptions, “levels the playing field,” and eliminates potential biases that are based on culture, religion and race. Additionally, it allows all students to engage in classroom activity without being judged. Non-traditional students, for example, have the opportunity to participate in the same classroom experience as their peers.
- It ensures that students are not lost in the discussion or afraid to share their ideas. In a virtual classroom, it is obvious who is engaged and “attending” class. In the traditional classroom, it is the uninhibited students who readily share their thoughts and opinions. But in an online setting, everyone, even the quietest students, gets the opportunity to contribute.
If you’re ready to find out more about learning in a virtual classroom consider Marygrove College’s offering of online graduate programs: Educational Technology; Educational Leadership; Human Resource Management and Modern Language Translation Certificates.
You should also know that as of March 26, Marygrove College is slashing tuition rates for these online graduate programs by 19 percent! The decision was made in an effort to address students’ concerns across the U.S. about the rising cost of higher education. This is one step—amongst a few others—that the college is taking to ensure that a Marygrove education is an achievable, financially-sustainable investment.