As online enrollment increases, so does the debate

According to women’s studies professor Kim Vaz, the amount of students taking online classes has increased considerably over the past few years.

“The demand (for online classes) is always growing,” Vaz said.

Online classes are more convenient for students with busy schedules and those who don’t want to worry about parking on campus, she said.

“I think another reason is that students feel that they can add another course to (their workload) because they don’t actually have to attend the class,” Vaz said. “Especially in the summer, (online) classes are very attractive because people are away for all kinds of reasons, internships, other kinds of responsibilities and even vacations.”

According to Vaz, online classes provide more opportunities for students at USF’s branch campuses.

“Online classes allow students in branch campuses to have course content that they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to,” Vaz said.

But even when students sign up for online classes, some feel like they aren’t learning anything.

“(Online classes) are definitely just a quick way to get something done and that’s it,” junior Erin McFarland said. “There’s not really any learning. Everything that I learned in those classes I don’t remember now. I would never take an online class for something that I had to advance to something higher from … nothing that is prominent to my major.”

McFarland, who is taking an online Spanish class this semester, is just one of a growing number of students who opt for an online class to lighten their workload.

“You’re kind of on your own … it doesn’t give you the pronunciations,” McFarland said.

World Language professor William Lehman says online classes are not for everybody. Lehman, who teaches German, said students often write letters asking whether they should take a foreign language class online or in a classroom.

“I tell them if they are a highly motivated student or if they are learning the language because they may be moving to Europe, then the online courses would work really well for them,” Lehman said. “But if they are trying to fulfill a language requirement, then the classroom environment may be better suited for them.”

Lehman also said one problem with taking online classes is some people learn more effectively in groups.

“A lot of students need a group dynamic (atmosphere) to keep their motivation high and their energy level high, and those type of people really need a classroom,” he said.

But Vaz said students in her online Women’s Studies class often interact in online group discussions.

“I use a lot of small group work in my online classes, so people have a real sense of community within their groups,” Vaz said.

Lehman said some of the benefits associated with online foreign language classes are that students can work ahead if they choose, and can listen to a variety of accents.

Junior Randi Morelock said online classes require more responsibility than traditional classes.

“You are responsible for your own amount of learning,” Morelock said.