Takes on online courses

Online courses are to learning what Facebook chatting is to socializing. But with Ryerson and the Ontario government pushing for an increase in online courses, students will be seeing more of them popping up in years to come. Is this a good or bad thing? It seems to be a bit of both. Folio speaks to a professor and a student about online courses:

Sarah Henstra
Ryerson English Professor

RF: What is your opinion of online courses, as an English professor?

H: I think that regardless of all of our opinions, it’s a trend that is here to stay. You can register more students in a class and have one instructor teaching the class. In English though, everything centers on interpretation, and it’s difficult to interpret a text when you’re the only one in a room. Unless you have a framework of opinions different from yours, it’s hard to shape up your own opinions.

RF: Do you think an increase of online courses is inevitable?
H: The harsh reality is that since I was hired in 2005, class sizes have grown and grown. And when you get to a certain size, class discussions and group work become less practical. I think online courses start to become a bit comparable at that point. But in truth, I think nothing can beat the small group format.

RF: On a more personal level, what do you think about face-to-face interactions with your students?
H: I miss the old days when I had 30 students in a class. I understood their writing styles because I knew who they were. With 100 students I’m less likely to attend to any one student, because I don’t know anybody.

Megan Macduff
3rd year Public Health

RF: Have you taken online courses? Did you enjoy the experience, or do you prefer regular courses?

M: I’ve taken two online courses. But honestly, I like real-time classes better. It becomes a challenge to do the work on a regular basis with my online courses. But when I’m in the actual classroom, I feel more motivated to learn something every week. I have to be sitting in that classroom and taking the notes. I absorb things when I listen. With online courses, I’d often find myself rushing to meet deadlines for papers because I hadn’t put in the time.

RF: What are some differences you can note between smaller courses and bigger, less personal ones?

M: In small classes, you’re more comfortable getting involved in the class and you know the professor more, so you feel more comfortable.

RF: Do you think online courses make participation and interaction between students easier?

M: Personally, I don’t want to read over other people’s comments if I don’t have to. In my experience, I just wanted to read over the professor’s posts and whatever would get me through the course. But when I’m in the classroom, I don’t really have a choice. And in the end, I think it is to my benefit.