A Few Reflections on the Online Course Experience

David Nied

When I first learned that this course was offered online, I just had to enroll. The idea of an online course is both intriguing and a novelty to me. But - I thought - can high class standards be maintained via this relatively new medium? Can there be sufficient teacher-student communication? Can there be sufficient student interaction? I found the answer is yes to all. On the matter of standards, educators are understandably concerned about work produce by "ghost writers" - or more simply -plagiarism. I have two thoughts about that. First, most of my upper division classes were graded on the basis of papers written outside the classroom. By and large, instructors abide this method. Secondly, I don't believe that there are very many of us motley students who have at our disposal superior writers willing to spend hours at a time writing papers for us. And so I think that online dishonesty - if it exists - is no greater than in a conventional venue. On the matter of teacher-student communication, my experience was most favorable. I found that the combination of E-mail and telephone voice communication ample to serve my information needs. In fact, I see E-mail communication as superior because it provides a permanent record of what was said. I often re-read E-mail instructions and found details I previously missed. Ultimately, this communication method helped me write better papers.

On the matter of sufficient student interaction, my experience was also favorable. While I don't socialize much in the classroom, I found that I did a great deal more communicating with fellow students via E-mail. I was delighted to "talk" to students from other countries who were taking the class.

Then there's the matter of the class web page. An excellent idea! Dr. Nissani had the foresight to post various students' efforts on each assignment. I think all students benefited from seeing their classmates' perspectives on various assignments. This unique advantage does not exist in the conventional classroom venue.

Let's now turn our attention to the logistics of this new online experience. In addition to the many positive aspects mentioned above, online courses render physiological and ecological benefits. For example, they eliminate one or two class visits per week - saving both auto fuel and precious drive time that the student can convert directly into time spent on assignments. Over the years, I've spent far too many late night hours driving home from class on blustery winter nights. My online experience taught me that I produce better quality work in the comfort of my home, as opposed to doing something while under the pressure of being at a certain place at a certain time.

Now let's look at what an online class can do from an ecological standpoint. The average class - let's say - has 15 students. Each student drives an average 20 miles round trip, and spends one hour doing so. And let's say the average car delivers 20 miles per gallon. Atypical course is 15 sessions long. In this scenario, the students collectively spend 225 hours driving to and from class. They also collectively use about 225 gallons of fuel during the semester. Now multiply 225 gallons per class by the hundreds of classes offered each semester, and it becomes easy to see that online classes could potentially save many thousands of gallons of fuel each year. And so the physiological and ecological benefits of online classes are both immense and undeniable. I feel that Wayne's faculty and management have a duty to shed their shackles of conservatism and embrace this new technology; its time has come, and Wayne needs to remain on the cutting edge of progress.