Online classes receive mixed reviews

Kristyn Soltis

Analysis discovers students score higher with virtual learning

Molly Sergi teaches mostly Web-based courses, but she prefers teaching face to face.

“I need to see and relate to people,” said Sergi, a lecturer in the geography department. “With Web-based, you don’t always know if the students are getting it. There’s generally a confirmation by body language and facial expression.”

Contrary to Sergi’s belief that students may not completely understand the material online, a recent report on online education found “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

The SRI International analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students participating in online coursework ranked in the 59th percentile when tested. The average student in a traditional classroom scores in the 50th percentile.

For the study, the students in the online courses were not able to use the Internet during quizzes and tests, said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author, in an e-mail interview.

Sean Milyo, sophomore advertising major, said he would rather be in a traditional classroom. But he attributes his higher grades in his online course to the availability of the Internet when completing assignments and tests.

While the Internet can be helpful during tests, glitches are sometimes encountered causing difficulties and headaches for students.

Deborah Huntsman, executive director of continuing and distance education, said students might encounter technical problems when taking a Web-based course, such as not having the correct software to run the program.

“We’ve begun to look at issues in depth and find new resources to resolve these issues,” Huntsman said.

As of 2009, Kent State has 130 fully online courses.

Michael McMahon, junior finance major, is attempting to enroll in one of them.

He is two weeks behind in his Web-based Black Experience I class because of complications enrolling with an online course.

“Somehow, through ways that I don’t even know, they somehow switched me with Black Experience II, so when the computer recognized that I didn’t have the prerequisite it dropped me,” he said. “Now I’ve had to re-sign up.”

McMahon said he can’t anticipate how difficult it will be to catch up after two weeks on a Web-based class where teachers are not readily available to speak before or after class, but he said he believes he will do better on tests and in the class overall being Web-based.

“I wouldn’t have to have all of that stupid crap like in-class assignments that they randomly pass out and pop quizzes,” McMahon said. “Online you see all the tests, you read all the material, it’s straightforward with no strings.

“That’s why I want to do it online because I feel the in-class experience has become subject to worthless, frivolous grading.”

Danielle Burin, junior fashion merchandising major, agreed material is easier to understand when the teacher is available after class, but preferred an online course to the traditional classroom.

“You could do it on your own time, and it just works around your schedule more,” Burin said. “We had to go to class to take the tests, but I think it would have been better if there was an in-person review before the test . Sometimes it’s hard when after class you don’t have the teacher right there to go and talk to them.”

Sergi said while Web classes are just as meaningful as live sections, it all depends on the students’ desire to learn.

“Many students need face-to-face interactions and instructions. They need the reassurance and time set by a traditional class,” Sergi said. “But again, I think for a certain clientele, Web-based is the way to go.”

Contact technology reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].