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Rethink online learning

Gabi Wy, Editor-in-Chief

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As the university focuses on online learning, no one making those decisions seems to be asking if it’s good for students.

Sure, technology is advancing. It’s normal for a student to have a laptop or at least access to a computer, and a phone where he or she can access the Internet pretty much anywhere.

But just because we have these machines that allow for information to be gleaned at our fingertips doesn’t mean it’s the best way to learn.

According to a Pew Research Center study in 2011, the general public and college administration differ over the value of online courses.

Only 29 percent of the public said online courses offer an equal value of education compared to courses in-person courses. Fifty-one percent of college presidents surveyed said online courses provide the same value.

If college leadership largely thinks students benefit from online courses, of course they are going to implement online learning strategies. The university hired a director of online learning in August of last year.

According to data released in 2014 by the National Center for Education Statistics, 5.4 million students, or one in four, took at least one distance education course in the fall semester of 2012.

It’s common to take a couple online courses throughout college or graduate school, but when there’s a push for more and more of a students’ courses to be offered online, the value of that students’ degree might be compromised.

A study by consulting group Millennial Branding in partnership with Internships.com found that 78 percent of more than 1,000 students surveyed preferred in-person courses to online courses.

If students prefer a certain method of teaching, chances are, they’re going to do better in that class and retain more information. If most students still prefer in person to online courses, the university might want to think twice before investing its time, money and priorities into online learning.

It may be more convenient, or the only way certain people can get their degrees. Online courses are often necessary and can be incredibly beneficial. It’s great for parents who want to earn a degree without coming to a campus every day, or for business professionals who want to further their education while remaining employed.

But the university neglects a number of its departments if it focuses more on pushing for online learning. Journalism and art students, for example, often worry if a class required for their major is going to be offered in time for graduation.

The university is not lacking in its offering of online courses, as most core classes have online versions in addition to regular, in-person offerings. It won’t hurt to add more.

But other aspects of the university could use the attention a lot more. There needs to be a balance, and the numbers indicate the public might not be as supportive of the online push as the university.

As for me, I’ll open up my physical psychology textbook and copy my notes by hand. I know I learn better that way.

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University of Southern Indiana's student publication
Rethink online learning