“Hide-and-Seek with help” — Are online classes a benefit or a burden?

By Brian Duskey

January 6, 2014

Chances are, if you’ve been at Western long enough, you’ve taken at least once online class.

A lot of students may think it will be easier, going in, because an online class usually means that you don’t have to go to an actual class or listen to any ongoing lectures for two or three days a week.

This begs the question: do online classes actually work? Do they make the load of a semester any easier? Are they worth it?

Western student, Lindsey Hartley, found them to be a huge struggle and doesn’t plan on taking another one any time soon.

“I thought taking a class online, as opposed to going into class, would be a lot easier. No. There was a lot of miscommunication.”

That miscommunication that Hartley speaks of took form in the process of how she was unable truly work with the professor who taught the classes she was in.

“It was like hide and seek with help,” Hartley said. “You wouldn’t think that being in a classroom would be so helpful, because no one wants to be there, but there’s something there that just helps out more because the teacher is right there. “

Hartley admits that sitting in a class can be very tedious at times, but proclaims that just hearing the instructor speak to you is so beneficial. Even if the student doesn’t catch everything they say, just the little amount is huge.

“I think it goes back to that elementary setting, when you are in a classroom,” Hartley said. “It becomes easier to work when you are around everyone because you’re so used to that classroom setting anyway.”

Hartley ended up failing a sociology course that she took online because she believes that she had no way of working with the professor.

To attest to the fact that lecture-based classes work better, she is now taking the class and getting a B.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t trying. I just wasn’t getting help,” Hartley said.

Linnea Edlin, another Western stood who has taken several online courses, sees the classes in a different light.

She actually finds the classes to be much easier, but doesn’t ever retain any of the information or learn anything from them, because she has her books and Google at her exposure. It made the class easier for her, but it didn’t lean towards actually learning any of the materials.

Edlin actually thinks that online courses can be extremely helpful; they just need to be restructured.

“Forcing more essay questions and forcing you to talk about the ideas, instead of multiple choice is necessary.” Edlin said.

She thinks that essay questions can help you form your own ideas and opinions, as to where multiple-choice questions just make you remember what you see.

“I think hearing information is really important,” Edlin said. “The discussion of ideas in necessary.”

Edlin claims that in one of her online classes, the professor would present topics and information to students and they all had to interact and reply with their own opinions on the topic.  She believes that is how most of these online courses should work.

She doesn’t completely disregard online classes because she does still take them because she finds them to be easy for classes that don’t contribute to the “big-picture” of her education.

“If I want something I can skate through, and I don’t have time, then it’s online… but if it’s something I want to retain and actually learn: lecture. Any day.” Edlin said.

A large issue of the online courses may be that a lot of them are intro classes, where the professors don’t really care and grade harshly. Or maybe it actually is the students who think online courses will be so much easier and don’t put in the effort. Or maybe it’s just a miscommunication between both sides.

Edlin believes that the courses can be improved through online discussions, while Hartley doesn’t see any benefit for online courses.

So maybe Hartley was right when she said that the courses are like “hide-and-seek” but that the game just needs to be more reorganized.