Have you taken any online classes or classes that required you to watch video modules before coming to the lecture? Do you think the format helps you to better understand the material, or rather, does it put the burden on you to be more self-disciplined? To meet the needs of 6,000 Fisher students, not only are more online classes becoming available, but also more traditional teaching methods are moving towards hybrid classes with additional learning materials online. Professors with little experience with the technology are now learning how to restructure courses to better meet the technological needs of students. In order to get to know what a professor’s take is on this new jump to online education, four Fisher professors gave their thoughts on managing online courses.
Q. Now there’s a large push to the online classes, do you think it is because of the capacity issue?
AP: Since it is not possible to offer enough classes for all the students to graduate on time, Fisher is trying to move some of the materials online to better use the classroom space. Besides the capacity issue, the administration office also believes that students want more online classes. The students she talks to would like online classes for their gen eds, but not necessarily for their business classes.
MJR: Actually more quantitative courses are designed to be online since it will be easier to measure students’ performance. The students will also be able to get the immediate feedback, which would normally put a huge burden on the instructors and TAs in the traditional live classroom setting.
RY: There are definitely more students, so classes are being pushed to be either an online or hybrid model. The traditional classroom setting is the better way to learn the materials. The only advantage that the online classes offer is more convenient to students since they don’t need to travel to the classroom.
Q. What is your overall opinion of online classes?
AP: While the hybrid class could be a good learning tool that enables the students to review the materials over and over, it can also make the interactions between students and instructors more difficult. Being in a classroom with live discussions enables professors to get to know the students better and is hard to beat.
RWR: The Marketing Management 3250 course works together with Pearson MyMarketingLab. The idea behind the hybrid class is the students will see the material three times in different learning formats. They see it once before class by doing the warmups for the material, so they won’t come to class unprepared. They then see it during the class in the form of a traditional lecture. Finally, they see it after class with the assessment on the material and get feedback immediately. The only negative thing about an online class is that there is less of a chance for faculty members to get to know students. Although office hours are provided and encouraged, the majority of students don’t necessarily want to see faculty members that much during office hours.
MJR: There has been a lot of misunderstanding about online classes. It’s not just about watching recorded videos, but students are also interacting with the material. Similar to some smartphone games being played by students, the same principles can be applied to the design of the online business courses. Like the simulation in operations class, the students learn the same concept as they do in a traditional classroom. The only difference is the format of the content being delivered.
RY: The traditional classroom setting is still the superior form of teaching college students. For example, in an online class the questions are often answered through emails. This leads to an issue as if 30 students ask the same question, then the professor will need to respond to that same question 30 times. Whereas in a lecture hall, when a student asks a question, other students experience that question in real-time and some of them may even realize “oh I never thought in this way.” This learning by building off of others is sorely missed with the jump to online education.
Q. How are courses evaluated for quality in the online delivery?
AP: Effectiveness is determined by the background and education of the faculty member and how much training he or she received. Teaching online classes is very different from teaching an in-person class, thus the effort and time that the faculty member puts into learning how to do it differently matters.
RWR: Brief surveys are used to better gauge the pulse of the student body. The people in a live class setting, stated that they think the class is a little bit long. However, people in the online class did not seem to mind that the class is structured as a two-hour lecture. The online class gives them the flexibility to watch in multiple settings instead of sit down and watch for the whole two hours.
MJR: One important aspect of assessing an online course is to create a way to reduce cheating and academic misconduct. The instructor needs to understand and estimate how long it takes a student with full knowledge of the content to do the questions and how many questions should be provided in this time period.
RY: Online classes are in one word – inferior. Similar to raising a child, a mother can’t raise her child without being by his or her side. A class without professors and other classmates interacting would not be as effective as a traditional class as it lacks the personal relationship gained from being in a live lecture.