Students who are working for their distance learning online degree have enough challenges affording a good computer, Internet hookup and a quiet place to study. That doesn’t even include the energy and determination to complete their studies. Many times, new virtual freshmen feel totally isolated because they are used to being surrounded by other students in a classroom. They need that contact. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What many don’t know is the students are only seconds away from their classmates; they only have to reach out. Online schools also provide a number of ways to have easy contact with the professors. If anything, the teachers report more contact with their online charges than their on-campus students.
Those not familiar with online education may suffer from the illusion of the e-learner as some kind of a lonely laborer. If so, they are in for a surprise. Actually, it seems the lack of face-to-face contact increases the volume of e-mail messages between teachers and their online students to five or six times per day. In addition to e-mail, students spend their share of time on group message boards and chat rooms with the entire class.
What’s interesting is that the teachers actually don’t mind the ton of e-mail. They even say they give these students more feedback than the students who spend their time waiting patiently at the professor’s office during the latter’s office hours.
In fact, many think this emphasis on virtual communication lets undergraduates be more productive than in a crowded classroom. Teachers of various classes even found their students involved in virtual debate. Even more ironic, the debaters could actually be sitting in the same building, even the same room, such as a shared public library or office conference room.
The teachers are enjoying some other interesting perks. One teacher at a Montana university said the online classes she taught in the past eight years often included a mix of students from foreign countries as far away as Japan and Egypt to a dormitory right on campus.
As such online services as Facebook and other social networks have become endemic, more students are actually starting to prefer electronic education. This style of education conforms more to their modern lifestyle, particularly the working student who must schedule around a job and possibly even family life.
Professors are reaping some new, unique benefits, too. One, who meets with his students only online, doesn’t live remotely anywhere near his campus at all. Returning to that college in Montana, another educator is still conducting his classes up there in the Badlands while doing research over 3,000 miles away in New York.
So, if students and teachers are finding and reporting these kinds of benefits, we should see this form of communications growing even more.