Online or in the classroon?

Junior Domenic Pontoriero is taking two online classes this spring, one by choice and the other by requirement.

“One of the classes I need is only offered online,” Pontoriero said, “The other one I heard is much better when taken online.”

Pontoriero said he was hesitant about taking online classes, an approach to college education that is become all the more popular.

“I have always avoided online classes, because I thought it was a waste of money and not as effective as person-to-person teaching,” Pontoriero said. “I was annoyed in high school when they tried to implement them. However, I’ve found that my classes are becoming more intense, and I need more freedom and flexibility. I think that online classes will help.”

Despite some misgivings, the educational system seems to be shifting toward online classes. Online classes abandon the traditional classroom setting. Instead of sitting through lectures, students learn by doing research and reading online, completing digital assignments, taking online quizzes and participating in discussions boards. Professors often communicate via e-mail or a group Web site such as Blackboard.

Psychology professor Todd Joseph proposed an online version of the course Cognitive Psychology, which is currently offered in the usual lecture hall setting.

“The course will be run through Blackboard,” Joseph said. “The course will require use of online discussion boards, completion of online quizzes and essay-format exams and the completion of an APA-style research paper. Course content will come from assigned readings of original source research and from notes posted on Blackboard.”

Many embrace this new phase of education, because online classes offer flexibility and accessibility.

“(My online classes) were very convenient,” sophomore Chase Dafnis said. “You could do your class work whenever, wherever and, if you are really daring, in the nude.”

This form of long-distance learning can benefit those who otherwise couldn’t receive an education, be it because of transportation or other obligations.

Proponents of online classes point out that the lack of student-teacher and student-student communication often causes problems.

“You can’t just walk to their office and work the problem out on the white board,” junior Sarah Koh said.

Students who procrastinate or have a hard time managing their time could have difficulty adjusting to this new method of education. In addition, students may often have trouble with the technological parts of the course.

“With my online English Composition II class, I found out I had to do something called ‘blogging,’ which was completely new to me at that time, and the assignments were very confusing,” said Dafnis. “In my online Survey of Jazz class, I found the course material to be very confusing, considering it was our teacher who designed the CD book. Once you figured out how the software worked, I found the course material to be very easy.”

Although a modern and uncertain form of education, online courses provide a new option for those who commute at USF or otherwise want a break from the lecture hall.

“I’ve found that (online classes) are more then just reading words off a screen, like a mechanical text book,” Pontoriero said. “Now they seem like they might be more conducive and accommodating.”