Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Students still prefer the classic classroom experience

Posted on January 27, 2015 in News
By Emma James

In the fall, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences issued a survey to ask students in the department which kind of learning they prefer. A resonating 92 percent answered that they prefer in person instruction, with two percent preferring online, and five percent preferring the blended classroom concept.

Leonard Shedletsky, professor of communication, has focused his teaching efforts online but does enjoy both.

“While the two contexts differ in many ways, there are ways in which they share significant features,” said Shedletsky. “What I have in mind is the potential more and more to meet live or synchronously online, to discuss, hear one another’s voice, see one another, share documents, view texts and videos together and to feel the immediacy of one another.”

Shedletsky noted the results of the survey, but advised that they be considered very carefully.

“These data should not be taken too literally without deeper examination,” Shedletsky said. “I believe that when people imagine the comparison there is a tendency to imagine scenarios that are not realistic. There is a tendency to romanticize the classroom, a world of give and take, authentic talk, engaged debate. Little of that is actually true, however.”

Matthew Killmeier, chair of the department of communication and media studies, explained that the survey was taken in class, which may cause some bias. He also recognized that when the department offers online classes, they fill up quickly.

“The bias is this survey is one we did in class,” said Killmeier. “When we offer an online section of something it usually fills up right away. There is demand. There is a considerable number of students that do do exclusively online.”

Killmeier went onto explain that one of his students, a blueberry farmer in Washington County, completed his communication degree completely online.

“It’s got potential if you do it right, recognizing that online is not for everybody, and I think a lot of students would attest to that,” said Killmeier. “It demands a lot more of the student. They have to be very self-disciplined because it is asynchronous.”

Ashley Belanger, sophomore biology major, believes there are pros and cons to online learning.

“[Online classes are] easier in some aspects because it’s more time friendly and convenient but also harder because it is not the first class you think of and it can be harder to focus,” Belanger said.

Belanger doesn’t believe that students should be able to complete a degree solely online, because that may deprive students of the hands-on aspect that some require to thrive. However, she does think offering online classes to those who may need it is a good route to go.

“I believe that it would be a good idea [to offer more classes online] since a great portion of our students work while going to school or have a family to take care of,” said Belanger. “It would fit better in almost everybody’s schedule.”

Lexi Huot, an undeclared freshman, is currently enrolled in her first online class at USM, but explained that she already knows that she prefers a face-to-face educational environment.

“With my class right now it’s very confusing to know what is due and how the professor wants it done,” said Huot. “Whereas, in a classroom environment they explained how the assignment should be done.”

She added that online classes are helping her manage her time better, since they are more independent.

Huot recognized that online classes are not how everyone learns.

“Many students, like myself, prefer to see the material done in front of us,” said Huot. “I also feel it is easier to engage in a class discussion when you have everyone else in front of you instead of going back to check your computer to see what your other classmates opinion is on the topic.”

Regardless of the preference, all agreed that online learning has potential, but is certainly not something that should be required, as students all have different needs.

“A quality academic experience, whether online or face-to-face is the goal we need to seek,” said Shedletsky. “It can be done if we set our minds to it.”

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