Online classes require student discipline 2013.04.24

Written by David Green.

By BAILEY BLAKER

Thanks to new online classes you don’t even have to get dressed to receive a quality education. Students all over the world are taking advantage of online degree options to go to school in just their pajamas.

In the last decade it has been a growing trend for colleges to offer classes online for those students who want to learn on their own schedules, but is there more to this online craze than just not having to get dressed in the mornings? 

By providing online degree options, colleges allow more students the opportunity to enroll in higher education. Older students who just don’t have the time for full-time education can set their own pace with the online option, and continue to work according to their own schedules.

High schools are also adopting online programs to provide students with a chance to take classes that aren’t available in the traditional classroom setting or to earn college credit through dual enrollment.

As a junior at Morenci Area High School, I enrolled in two online college courses through Jackson Community College. My first class, “Western Civilizations 500 through Present,” was not at all what I expected. It was an in-depth course that covered information in the form of PowerPoint presentations, discussion forums with classmates, and reading assignments that corresponded well with the text.

Another unexpected aspect of the class was the amount of work it required. I couldn’t just breeze through course work without trying, and I actually had to put information together on my own and make informed conclusions based on the reading. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the class and I learned more than I thought I would.

My second class, however, was a completely different story. Because of technical issues and pure laziness on my part, I was not nearly as successful as I was with my other class. 

Other Morenci students who have dual enrolled include Cheyenne Travioli who is taking a medical terminology course.

“It's worth my time and is very well rounded,” she said.

She has to put in a few hours every week to keep up with her course work.

While these courses provide quality subject matter, they do have a slight down side. The classes are only beneficial to students if they want to learn and actually put in the effort. If you don’t take it seriously, there won’t be a teacher waiting to try to get you back on track or to help you through difficult material. When you are in charge of your own education, there are both benefits and disadvantages.

Online classes are not limited to college courses. Many high schools all over the country are incorporating online classes into their schedules, Morenci included. At our high school, the majority of online classes are offered through a program called E2020. This features classes ranging from physics, sociology and economics to geography, computer skills and healthy living.

Students have the opportunity to take any class they choose as long as it fits into their schedule. Most upperclassmen and many underclassmen at Morenci have taken more than one of these online classes during their high school careers. 

During my sophomore year I took an advanced Algebra 2 class online because it wasn’t offered in a classroom with a teacher at the time. I had never taken any online class before so I had no idea what to expect from this experience.

I can honestly say that I wasn’t impressed with the class. The information was given to me via 14 to 20 minute long video lectures. Math isn’t that riveting in the best circumstances so you can imagine what those lectures were like. Notes were supposed to be taken from the videos, but I seldom took notes. Instead it was extremely easy for me to zone off during my lessons or I would do other homework instead of my online class.

I couldn’t tell you one thing I was supposed to learn from this class. This is partly because I didn’t pay attention to the lessons most of the time, and partly because when I did pay attention I couldn’t follow the lecture.

My lackluster experience in this math class isn’t uncommon, according to school counselor Diana Fallot.

“Math classes are always the hardest for students to take through E2020,” she said.

The class provided me with sufficient facts, but it lacked something very important. There wasn’t any teacher interaction whatsoever. Quite a few students agree that these classes need interaction in order to be effective.

Senior Josh Elarton has taken psychology, speech, sociology, economics and healthy living—all via E2020. He believes that these classes “are not effective at all, and that most students have discovered ways to cheat the system.” There are certainly flaws in the system as it is now, but the school is working toward making improvements. 

Mrs. Fallot has expressed her frustrations when including online classes within the schedule.

"Some students take online classes in order to get out of something else, some other class that they don’t want to take,” she said.

Mrs. Fallot also noted that online classes need to be more “intentionally placed within a schedule,” and that students should only be allowed to enroll in classes in which they are genuinely interested.

Changes may be coming in the next few years. According to principal Kelli Campbell the current program “lacks a strong support system for students.” She also stated that other, more interactive, programs are being looked into for possible alternatives to E2020. If this change were to occur it wouldn’t be in the immediate future, but would take a few years to make it a reality. Ms. Campbell mentioned that E2020 may not be the best program available now, but it could get better.

“It could still improve in the future," she said, "and it provides the students with electives that they wouldn’t have a chance to take otherwise.” 

E2020 is not the only online program offered at Morenci. This is the second year for the foreign language course Rosetta Stone. At first, multiple foreign languages such as German, French, Hebrew, and even Latin were offered to Morenci students, but now only Spanish is available.

This is the first year of a combined online/classroom Spanish curriculum at Morenci. Michelle Hoard, who also teaches at Hudson, is only in Morenci every other day of the week. On the days that she is not at the school her students still get exposure to the language through Rosetta Stone.

Ms. Hoard said that while her students may prefer working alone through Rosetta, they still need the interaction in the classroom to fully grasp the language. Rosetta is good for exposure—“exposure to the language is always good,” she said—but it lacks interaction and students do not learn writing expression with just Rosetta as their only guide. 

Science teacher Kerry Niemen said the content of the classes is not the problem. 

“If you approach it the right way you can learn something,” she said.

Students can learn from online classes, but success is based solely on their own motivation. It also depends on what kind of student they are. For example, a student who learns by doing will have a difficult time, Mrs. Neiman said.

Whatever online class you take, the quality of the experience is in the hands of the student. If you put in the effort and genuinely want to learn the subject, then the tools are available to succeed.

It is a sign of the digital age that we have found ourselves in. Classrooms that blend teacher-led instruction with online instruction are a growing practice in schools throughout the country because of our increased use of technology in the educational system. With all of these new learning opportunities there are bound to be some flaws, some kinks in the plan, but there is only room to move forward through the use of technology, and it looks like Morenci is right on track. 

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