Online courses an alternative, not a replacement

A.J. Circhirillo

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Laptops, smart phones and tablets have digitalized communication, entertainment, and now education through online courses.

However, online classes are an alternative, not a replacement for traditional classroom learning, said Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“(Online courses) are a way of reaching out to students with primarily jam packed days,” Hellenbrand said.  “This allows them to take a course that they can squeeze into (their schedules).”

In a city like Los Angeles where traffic is a constant variable, online courses allow students to take classes without coming to campus, he added.

Although online courses are beneficial for some students, Hellenbrand said entirely online courses are not the most suitable for incoming freshman, who generally do not succeed in a digital classroom.

Only  29 percent of Americans believe online courses provide the same education as in-class courses, but 51 percent of university presidents believe they are of equal value, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Students want the campus experience, Hellenbrand said. In his opinion, the experience increases students’ maturity and is essential in preparing them for their career.

Roughly one-in-four college students reported taking an online course, but reaction to online courses are mixed among the students taking part.

“I feel like online courses can be a good and a bad thing,” said, Daniel Abad, a transfer student from San Diego State University. “The bad is that it gives students the ability to be lazy and not come into class, the good is for full time students who also have a job to work into my schedule.”

Abad admitted to enjoying the college experience and getting the interpersonal attention by a professor that there is no cyber-replacement for at this juncture in technology.

“I presume it would take two to three times the cost of the course itself to prepare the materials for it if it’s entirely online,” said Hellenbrand.

The cost for creating online resources may be substantially more but online courses have the advantage of reusable material and the opportunity to recuperate cost over time, Hellenbrand said.

Online courses are broken up into two categories: state-supported classes where students have the same opportunities to receive state aid, and self-supported, where students take out loans that fit their needs.

CSUN’s Tseng College supports the latter category and targets graduate students, advanced undergraduates or students with little time for school during the week.

“Our classes are a more desirable way for (mid-career professionals) to get an education because it’s a better fit,” said Kamiran Badrkhan, deputy dean at Tseng College.  “Not having to drive makes things more convenient.”

Tseng College offers professional students a hybrid learning experience with courses online and on campus.

Badrkhan said many of the classes were not completely online because they require face to face instruction, and no matter how advanced technology becomes, no online experience can match that of in-person instruction.

“You wouldn’t want to go to a phlebotomist who was taught entirely online, you would probably rather go to a person that has live experience,” Badrkhan said.  “Online is not a substitute, it is a different mode and another choice.”

 

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