Your opinion on online courses?

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acegolfer
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Your opinion on online courses?

Post by acegolfer » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:33 pm

Higher education has changed a lot in the last 15 years. More universities are offering online degrees and classes. If you are a student now (not when you were a student 20 yrs ago), would you take online courses?

cmb16
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by cmb16 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:42 pm

Did a traditional undergrad and an online masters. Short answer: going to learn a lot more from a traditional classroom than an online course (my experience, YMMV). Online courses, in my experience, were far easier, less taxing, and less likely to leave me with a strong knowledge base.

Depends on your goals. If you are seeking personal development, a great learning experience, maximum learning diffusion/retention...go in person. If you are seeking to knock out a degree in the fastest, most efficient manner simply to put it on a resume or for professional advancement, can't beat going online. Got my MPA in 10 months by doubling the recommended course load, and it was less taxing than my easiest semester at undergrad. Again, I'm sure dependant on school choice, so YMMV.

Pigeon
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Pigeon » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:55 pm

I don't think they are equivalent, to be honest. I work in high ed. I see that a lot of faculty work hard at trying to produce good courses, but it's just not a similar learning experience.

There are certain situations where I'd be tempted to do the program online. If you are working full time or are otherwise not geographically mobile and there's no program in your area, I'd probably do online. If I couldn't afford college, I might also do something like the online degree from ASU that Starbucks will fund.

But given a choice, I know I would get more out of a bricks and mortar course.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:00 pm

Depends on the course and the school. My son took an online math course at his school during the summer. Same cost, same time of class, all the same work. Final exam could be taken on campus or with a paid proctor service. Any class could be attended on campus.

For this course, sure, I'd give the same credit to the student. He could, of course also attend classes later by signing on to look at video. For consistency, he's always gone back to review classroom lectures. All classes are video'd whether offered online or not and students can review the material.

I'd be skeptical about either stand alone classes where there's no equivalent classroom course or with a fully online degree.
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health teacher
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by health teacher » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:06 pm

They are not all created equal. Additionally, they aren't for everyone.

The first step when learning something is engagement. So, if you are interested in a subject, intrinsic engagement
could come from reading about it, either through text or learning modules; however, you could still be interested in a subject and need that immediate human interaction through q&a, etc. so it all depends on the learner. Some can thrive in the online environment, while others won't get as much out of it.

Flexibility is another huge factor here. Obviously online classes are much for flexible. Its kind of like comparing Netflix to cable TV. It all depends of the person's life situation.

Additionally, it depends on the class. Open discussions are fantastic for broader learning on a subject. The forum posts required in many online classes try to emulate open discussion, but it just isn't the same, in my opinion. In the real world, much of the learning we do is through experience. In education this is best emulated utilizing the constructivism learning theory, which is to create real world applications. It's pretty difficult to simulate real world experiences for many of the online classes.

You can look at all of the data you want on this and it won't mean much since learning is so complex and dynamic.

To answer your question:

I received undergrad tradionally in a "brick and mortar" setting and then received additional credentials and eventually my masters online. I did purposely seek out online options for my masters in Learning and Technology. This enabled me to look at the course delivery, content, etc. and model my curriculum.

getthatmarshmallow
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by getthatmarshmallow » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:31 pm

I teach both online and face-to-face at a brick-and-mortar university, and my institution has internally researched the question of which serves our students better. What we've found is that it's hard to make generalizations, but that generally the course quality follows the professor: if the professor is good face-to-face, chances are good that the professor also delivers a good online course. Interestingly, quality doesn't seem to track department or major, although online is popular in some areas rather than others. We've also found that the present-day student is likely to take both online and face-to-face courses (so we don't have one population of online-only or face-to-face only or anything like that, as a general rule.) Most online courses are lower-division or general education requirements.

We consider the courses equal: if you take Marshmallow 101 with me online, it satisfies all of the requirements that Marshmallow 101 face-to-face would. The credits count exactly the same (if I recall correctly, method of delivery isn't listed on the transcript.) I can't speak for all of my colleagues, but the evaluation components (essays, exams) are the same in both of my classes.

At the level of anecdote, the main drawback of an online course is that it's very easy for students to procrastinate without the structure of meeting regularly, and some find that they need that structure. How one learns is also relevant. So I think if one wishes to take online courses, it helps to be very honest with oneself about one's preferred learning style and need for oversight.

MJW
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by MJW » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:33 pm

I took a handful of online classes throughout my academic "career" with my second masters degree having the largest number (and recent enough to not be 20 years ago. :wink: ). Needless to say, I have taken a lot of courses in my day. Of the "bad" ones, more of them were online than not. A couple of them were absolutely atrocious and in one case I discovered that one of the instructors they used really had no business teaching a graduate-level class. The program itself was still mostly seated, traditional classes so it seems like they had just taken a shortcut in being able to offer additional electives online, lowering their standards in the process. (And don't get me started about the lack of academic rigor that seems to pervade higher education these days.)

I would add that the best online courses I've experienced were taught by instructors whose seated classes I also found to be of quality.

You didn't go into specifics about your own situation or why you are asking, but if I were to make a decision about it today, I would have to consider whether the entire program was online or just a few classes. If it were an entire program I am still biased enough against that to not do it. If it's the latter, I would just do what was needed to complete the program. We're probably getting close to a point in the job market where employers aren't going to care as much either way, though I've still seen bias against all-online programs in recent years.

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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by nisiprius » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:54 pm

People have been taking "correspondence courses" by mail and getting college credit for them for at least a century... regardless of whether they are truly equivalent to in-person courses.

A web page on the history of distance learning says that "in 1892, the University of Chicago began offering correspondence courses"--not clear if they counted for university credit.

Sinclair Lewis' 1925 novel Arrowsmith, describing his fictional state of Winnemac, says that
Winnemac was the first school in the world to conduct its extension courses by radio.
The first time I read that I wondered if he was embellishing reality with his imagination, but the article linked above says that "in 1925, the State University of Iowa began offering course credit for five radio broadcast courses."

It says that "by 1953, broadcast television was becoming more prevalent, and the University of Houston responded by offering televised college classes for credit."

So I don't know how the quality of online courses compares, or what it is going to do to traditional education... but the higher ed community seems to have accepted distance learning as being at least "adequate" for a long time.

Based on my experience taking an EdX course online--a no-cost course, not for college credit--I believe that the EdX online course experience was surely better than traditional correspondence courses. Based on my experience taking one-on-one Spanish lessons with human teachers, via video calls, I believe that this direct one-on-one interactive experience is far superior to a classroom with fifteen or twenty students.
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runner3081
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by runner3081 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:26 pm

I did my MBA online.

It was a pain and involved TONS of writing.

They are great, IF, you are a self starter and can write/research.

Thegame14
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Thegame14 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:36 pm

I would take an online course for continuing education or as part of an in person degree. Personally I feel like online degree programs have little weight and are not worth anything close to a traditional degree program, especially MBA or college courses. So I would not do them at all, I don't want to tell people my college degree or MBA is from an online university. Even if it is more common, I don't think it holds much value in the job market.

FullYellowJacket
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by FullYellowJacket » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:40 pm

I received my MS in engineering completely online, but all my classes were shared with on campus students. None of the online classes were standalone. I could have attended any of my lectures in person if I wanted to. When I took these classes I was a more mature person than in Undergrad. I feel that I have retained knowledge very well. Online education can be great if from a quality university.

gluskap
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by gluskap » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:47 pm

I got my bachelors at a regular university and my masters online. I think there are a lot of things you learn at a traditional school that can't be taught online so I highly recommend getting bachelors traditionally. But for graduate courses, especially where someone is working full time like I was and needed the flexibility of an online program that works better for a more mature student.

Thegame14
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Thegame14 » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:52 pm

I guess to me the key is the University itself. If Harvard had an online program that was as difficult to get into as its regular program, then I wouldn't even say online on my resume. I am thinking more along the lines of university of phoenix or these other ONLY online universities. To me, those online only university degrees have little to no value. I would think you can just get a similar education reading books and you tube videos on a subject, to me a big part of the education is the quality and difficulty getting into the program and the interaction with teachers and other students in person is key. If anyone can just pay the fee and take courses online, there is no value. If you tell me only 5% of people who apply to these online universities get accepted and can take courses, I will change my mind.

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DartThrower
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by DartThrower » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:16 pm

I have taken a number of courses online for the purpose of continuing ed. About half of them were pretty good and half were sub-par. There is definitely a place for online education, and we're at a point where educators are experimenting with what is the best mix of in-person and online. I really hope that online learning can help significantly reduce the cost of learning for future generations of learners, and thus make quality education more accessible to all.

Online learning is great for continuing ed because it gives the learner a chance to explore a (sometimes obscure) topic without making a huge commitment in time or money. If the topic is still of interest afterward then it can be pursued further. If a student finds a topic particularly difficult he or she can watch videos over again several times and at slower speed if that helps. This can be hugely beneficial for students who might be behind in a topic but highly motivated to learn.

This is a golden age for people who love to learn. Many of the benefits are here already and many are yet to come.
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by carolinaman » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:53 pm

The last 2 years of school (brick and mortar) for my BS in Accounting was essentially self learning. The accounting instructors were there to administer courses, not teach them. I am sure they would deny this but that was my experience. Many times I heard other students ask accounting profs questions and not get any answers. Fortunately, the text books were excellent and I was able to learn from reading them and doing the problems. Personally, I think online would have worked as well, plus I could have avoided the commute time. My first 2 years of college I had better interaction with teachers and most actually taught. YMMV

A7las
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by A7las » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:27 pm

I did 3 years at a brick and mortar before having to leave for financial reasons.

I am now finishing my bachelors at an online only university.

The university is fully accredited and non profit.

In my opinion, I have learned more with my online classes than I did in person at the brick and mortar. I am however much more mature now, which should be taken into consideration.

I wrestled with what employers would think, but ultimately, I would have had to be away from my young children and wife and this way I am able to watch lectures and study after they go to bed.

In my opinion, you will get out what you put in. You can breeze through an in person class just as easy as an online class if you have no desire to learn. It isn’t hard to pass a class when 30% of your grade is attendance.

The last thing I will say is that graduates from my online only have been accepted to many top universities including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and MIT Sloan. It ultimately comes down to your situation and how well you can sell yourself in the interview.
Last edited by A7las on Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

stoptothink
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by stoptothink » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:46 pm

A7las wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:27 pm
In my opinion, you will get out what you put in. You can breeze through an in person class just as easy as an online class if you have no desire to learn. It isn’t hard to pass a class when 30% of your grade is attendance.

The last thing I will say is that graduates from my online only have been accepted to many top universities including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and MIT Sloan. It ultimately comes down to your situation and how well you can sell yourself in the interview.
Like anything else, you can't generalize. It depends on both the person and the program. My stepfather attempted to get his MEd twice from online programs over the past decade and couldn't hack it, literally failed out. He finished his MEd last year from a brick & mortar, with nearly a 4.0. He couldn't handle the level of organization and personal responsibility necessary to do it without having to physically show up and sit in a classroom.

I took a handful of online courses during my 11yrs of university education, and my experiences were mixed, just like my conventional classes. As someone who hires a lot of very well educated individuals (6 STEM PhDs in my department, countless MS'), I don't really care and in many cases would never know if the courses or even the entire program were online; the outlier being degrees from for-profit universities. Of the several people I know with degrees from for-profit universities, many won't even list it on a resume anymore.

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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by BogleMelon » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:01 pm

Bogleheads.org is a proven live example that online "education" is working just fine! :beer
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A7las
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by A7las » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:03 pm

stoptothink wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:46 pm
A7las wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:27 pm
In my opinion, you will get out what you put in. You can breeze through an in person class just as easy as an online class if you have no desire to learn. It isn’t hard to pass a class when 30% of your grade is attendance.

The last thing I will say is that graduates from my online only have been accepted to many top universities including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and MIT Sloan. It ultimately comes down to your situation and how well you can sell yourself in the interview.
Like anything else, you can't generalize. It depends on both the person and the program. My stepfather attempted to get his MEd twice from online programs over the past decade and couldn't hack it, literally failed out. He finished his MEd last year from a brick & mortar, with nearly a 4.0. He couldn't handle the level of organization and personal responsibility necessary to do it without having to physically show up and sit in a classroom.

I took a handful of online courses during my 11yrs of university education, and my experiences were mixed, just like my conventional classes. As someone who hires a lot of very well educated individuals (6 STEM PhDs in my department, countless MS'), I don't really care and in many cases would never know if the courses or even the entire program were online; the outlier being degrees from for-profit universities. Of the several people I know with degrees from for-profit universities, many won't even list it on a resume anymore.
I agree 100%

It comes down to the individual and whether or not they can produce the desired outcome for their employer.

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William4u
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by William4u » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:20 pm

I've talked to many profs about this. Admin loves online classes since they are great money makers. However, for the most part undergrads learn a lot less. A prof at another institutions turned a regular undergrad course into an online course and she showed her online syllabus to a colleague. The colleague laughed and said that she needed to cut 75% of the course if she expected most of the students to complete it online. She cut 75% of the regular course to make the online course, and the students still said it was much harder than their other online courses.

I asked a student a couple of weeks ago about her online course at a Community College. It was a 4 week course that only required a one paragraph reflection once a week. That was it. And it came with 3 credits. What a scam. The prof gets paid, and admin gets lots of money for the college, and the students get 3 credits for doing very little.

I've surveyed my students in every class: "Have you ever had a transformative experience in a college class?" They all say "Yes." "Have any of these experiences been in online classes?" Always "No." And every students has taken online classes.

With some exceptions, most online courses in the US are shortcuts to learning that leave out too much.

Bogle_Bro
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Bogle_Bro » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:42 pm

I think theyre great for continuing education in the right circumstances

I have a doctorate in law but am taking (employer reimbursed) accounting classes to learn a new skill.

I highly recommend the online school, WGU, so far: Its an accredited nonprofit school that is insanely cheap (3 grand for 6 months of unlimited classes). The classes are self paced with deep content. https://www.wgu.edu/

rich126
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by rich126 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 7:23 am

I took a few graduate courses (only because my company at that time paid for it).

Someone online schools are easy. I still learned stuff but if I take a class I only know how to study one way and can't say "we'll this is easy so I'll only study 60%". But, the exams were much easier than classes I took at a major engineering university.

There are some good online training sites. I actually find cybrary.it has several good training videos (free, at least the ones I've watched) and can help a lot but the Phoenix, Keller/Strayer, I'd be leery of and wouldn't hold degrees from them in high regards (and at least one of them I've taken classes from).

Tech places (e.g., Cisco) can also have good online training.

Bottom line, it varies a ton.

acegolfer
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by acegolfer » Wed Aug 08, 2018 7:28 am

Thanks for all your opinions. I'm part of an online learning committee at a non-profit private university. We provide guidelines/tips for designing online courses. Your inputs are appreciated.

Even 5 years ago, ppl were reluctant to take online courses. I feel more (but not all) people are willing to take it online now. Your responses confirmed my belief.

I strongly agree that online courses are not for everyone. It depends on the student/professor/university. From my experience, the dispersion of quality is wider for online courses than traditional courses (probably obvious because of different online technologies used among professors). Here's a tip to students who have a choice to take online classes. Before the semester begins, ask the professor what online tools he will use. See whether it is a good fit for you. If he doesn't respond fast, drop the course.

Ninnie
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by Ninnie » Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:36 pm

The top indicator for a well rated online course is instructor engagement. It's that simple.

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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by 123 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:24 pm

It largely debends on the subject matter and level of the course. I've taken online technical computer courses and they've usually been fine with subject matter and lab assignments closely tied to an associated textbook. There's often an online blog or forum for interaction with other students. Since much of the effort is solitary computer lab work assignments I have actually found such onlne courses to be preferable to brick-and-mortar classes, no wasted commute time.

If the course content was abstract, literature, psychology, politics, math, etc I think that online courses would lack most of the interaction and dynamics of a live lecture discussion class.
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JBTX
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by JBTX » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:33 pm

I would have liked them because I usually checked out in class and learned it on my own anyway, by my kid just took one and I think she does better with the structure of a traditional class. You have to be self motivated and also able to figure out things on your own that you don't understand.

CPonzi
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Re: Your opinion on online courses?

Post by CPonzi » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:55 pm

The quality of online classes varies widely. Most schools that are primarily online offer compressed classes, 7-8 weeks in length. You spend most of your time reading text books and writing discussion board posts and papers. Having taken over 20 online classes in this format, hardly any of them offer lectures or real value to the student. If your classes are general education (lower level core), you'd be much better off using CLEP exams to save money and learn just as much (online resources are abundant). First make sure the college you are attending accept the credits, most do.

https://clep.collegeboard.org/exams

http://www.free-clep-prep.com/clep-difficulty-list.html

Traditional colleges I've attended that offer synchronous online classes are much better. Providing lectures, flexibility (don't have to drive to campus), live interaction, and proctored exams. Proctored exams may seem like a barrier but they ensure a certain quality level.

Either way you go, recommend steering clear of for profit universities.

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