web / Web 2.0

9 Reasons For Online Training and 5 Against

online classesA few weeks ago, I polled you-all about your interest in online training. The results were mixed. Setting aside the obvious reason that online classes are much more affordable for both offeror and offeree, here are some of the comments I got (I’ve summarized):

For

  • students can attend class from a car, their home, a library, while they’re waiting for their sister to finish ballet.
  • classes are flexible–adaptable to student schedules
  • online classes allow non-verbal students to participate fully with writing, drawing, and other non-audio approaches. This is a huge plus if the student is shy, easily intimidated and/or distracted by others
  • class members in online classes are highly diversified, offering an opportunity for students to learn about different cultures, attitudes, and approaches to learning
  • classes are self-paced–students move exactly as quickly or slowly as they want (with the fast forward and rewind)
  • no distractions–students sit down and go to work without the chatter that usually starts a class, the goofing off that often distracts a lesson, and then interference from other students who don’t or won’t get whatever is included in the lesson
  • no commuting, which means no traffic jams, no school house parking lots, less money spent on cars/gas/maintenance
  • prepares students for future education in high schools and colleges
  • content is managed through the online course framework, which means students can go back to review

Against

  • can’t adapt class to student pace of learning–i.e., if class requires more clarification to get a point, the online teacher doesn’t know that. Normally, a teacher will restate, answer clarifying questions, but in online classes, the only option is for the student to pause and replay the section
  • can’t differentiate for variety of class learners
  • no socialization learning available–a critical piece of functioning in college and career
  • a real strength of teaching is the bonding with the teacher. That’s why some teachers are so much better than others, even if they teach the same curriculum. An online course loses that charisma
  • students must have ‘good’ computers, internet, and technology in general. And, when something goes wrong with the technology, the class stops until glitches are fixed. that can be a real time-management problem if homework is due or classmates had planned to meet online to work on a project

It should be noted that a lot of these problems are solved with a real-time approach like Google Hangouts, where students and teachers are there at the same time, in the same virtual classroom. Then students can share their screens, get help immediately, ask clarifying questions. In the case of GHO, these can be taped directly to YouTube and a private class channel, so anyone not available during the live session can still participate in the class by watching the video.

A note: My thanks to Justin Baeder over at the Principal Center for  his help with GHO.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.comIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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8 thoughts on “9 Reasons For Online Training and 5 Against

  1. Well, I don’t necessarily agree that a synchronous environment is the resolution to the against responses. An asynchronous environment facilitated by a gifted online teacher promotes differentiation, community building, adaptable learning spaces in an online venue. Also, using universal design principles can overcome the technology gap. It takes a lot of upfront planning but engagement and differentiation in an online class does not necessarily require all the bells and whistles of modern technology to succeed or real-time interaction. Just sayin’.

    • Good points. I guess the issue is whether students will in fact get a ‘gifted online teacher’. I’ve taken a few classes where I almost never ‘saw’ the teacher, much less received differentiation in instruction to suit my unique needs.

      I heartily agree that done right, this is a wonderful way to teach and learn–and seems to be the direction education is headed.

  2. As a Dean of Distance Learning for 10 years, an instructional designer, an online faculty member for many years, and Regional Director of the Statewide California Virtual Campus project, I have to politely disagree with 4 of your 5 reasons against online training. Only one really remains- the problem of reliable technology and connectivity.

    Having worked at a college (Coastline College in California) that was a leader in development of distance learning materials, resources, and delivery innovations for 30 years we solved the 4 of 5 “against” issues many years ago. Over the past 30 years Coastline has taught an average of 10,000 students yearly (plus another 10,000 in the armed services through our military contracts) using strategies from telecourses, to CD/DVD, to videoconferencing, to Internet/online, to smart-phone/PDA/tablet delivery strategies.

    There isn’t room here to go into all the details, but many progressive institutions and organizations are providing leadership, training, and demonstrations on how to engage students, improve socialization, provide for alternative learning styles, and allow for individual pacing in online courses.

    The one thing to always remember is that learning happens in the mind of a student, not in a particular place.

    Dr. Ted Boehler
    Former Dean of Innovation & Learning Technology
    Coastline Community College

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  5. Jacqui and others,

    I found that I was engaged with this blog entry although, like Ted Boehler, I think the negatives can be addressed by good online learning practice. I wonder if you might develop this further, encouraging people like Ted and others who wish to to provide details on how some of the reasons addressed can be addressed. I could see this developed into a useful article for teachers who are relatively inexperienced with online or blended learning

    I have an “against” to add for _pure_ online learning which applies to learners who are not comfortable using the Internet, especially for learning. Some face-to-face, especially at the beginning, would help them learn how to learn online with some support. Often the question is not for/against online learning but rather, how to address the learning concern, whether a blended model is needed (or is better), or how it can be addressed online without face-to-face support. For example, with adult learners (immigrants who need English, adults who did not learn to read well in school, and others) who also have not used a computer or the Internet before, the face-to-face component is essential for many reasons, at least in the beginning.

    • I’d love to take a guest post from anyone discussing online classes–how are they received, what’s been their evolution, how DO you offer socialization with classmates (that works) and similar questions. Any takers?

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