Patrick Schreiner

Seminary Advice pt. 7

In Theology on 05/19/2011 at 7:27 AM

Seventh, try to stay away from distance learning.

It is an incredible blessing to many that distance education has taken off the last 10 years. The amount of courses you can now take online, in the comfort of your hometown, while keeping the same job, is a grace. I admit, it is better to have these classes online, than not have them at all.

But in the midst of all this, I hear few people speaking of their adverse effects.

I ended up taking two classes online and I found that the quality of education in the online classes was significantly different than being in the class for a number of reasons.

First, it is much easier to get distracted if you are at home, in a coffee shop, or anywhere but the classroom. I found myself surfing the web when I got bored, falling asleep, and putting it on pause when I needed to go do something else.

Second, the interaction with the teacher is invaluable. I heard one person say something to the following effect. “You learn the most from the teachers when they digress.” What he meant was that most of these guys have written books on what they are teaching and you can always go and read them. But it is when they get questions from the class or just starting wondering from the topic that many times you hit gold.

Third, interaction with other students is sharpening. After the class usually what happens is a discussion of what students agreed with, why they disagree, or what they learned.

By taking all three of these elements away, online learning is simply not providing the same type of education.

My advice, if at all possible, go to the school.

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  1. I agree! But I think if some schools cut out the classes that no one really want’s to take and instead adjusted the classes then more people would actually take, then those classes would not be taken Distant Learning by students who are actually at the school.

  2. [...] Stay away from distance learning. [...]

  3. I think you’re painting with too broad a brush here. I’ve taken a number of online courses in my college career, while most of my courses were in the classroom.

    From my experience, the quality of the online class depends greatly upon the instructor organizing and conducting it. A lot of it also depends upon the student and his/her learning/studying stylem

    One of the best courses I took, where I learned the most and studied the hardest, was online.

    [quote]First, it is much easier to get distracted if you are at home, in a coffee shop, or anywhere but the classroom.[/quote]

    It is easier to get distracted, but this isn’t always a bad thing and it definitely isn’t something that will necessarily happen. A great learning strategy involves “chunking”. It can be easier to “chunk” an online class than an in-class one where you have to sit for an hour or two hours at a time and you end up daydreaming anyway and missing parts of the lecture.

    [quote]Second, the interaction with the teacher is invaluable.[/quote]

    This is true, but I have never experienced this to be a weakness in online learning. E-mail, IMs, and forums were constantly utilized to make interaction a big part of the course. In one course I took (World Religions) the interaction both from teacher to student and from student to student was *much* greater than anything I’ve had in an in-class course.

    [quote]I heard one person say something to the following effect. “You learn the most from the teachers when they digress.”[/quote]

    In my experience, this has always been the worst part of having to sit through a lecture. The vast majority of the time, in my experience, digressions take you away from the topic of the course… a topic that I’m paying *a lot* of money to study.

    [quote]Third, interaction with other students is sharpening. After the class usually what happens is a discussion of what students agreed with, why they disagree, or what they learned.[/quote]

    I addressed this above, but let me expound. In my online World Religions class student to student interaction was an actual part of our grade and it was something that could be graded at a more objective level (we had to do a number of posts in a forum responding to a certain number of students). I’ve taken many in-class courses where the syllabus said that we would be graded by “class participation” but where that was actually *never* factored into our grade.

    [quote]By taking all three of these elements away, online learning is simply not providing the same type of education.[/quote]

    In my experience, online learning doesn’t take any of these elements away and it can even enhance them if done rightly.

  4. I agree and disagree. I take half of my classes online. At my seminary at least for an online class…you watch a real lecture that was recorded live with a class full of students. So, you do listen to the Professor lecturing, and digressing, and answering student questions. Of course, watching this after the fact you can’t participate! But there is a forum for each class, where you can post questions for the Prof, as well as required forum “interactions” with other students where you must discuss questions and critique each other’s assignments. Yes, we have to read and critique each others assignments. In live, on site classes, I have never been able to read other’s papers. I’ve learned a great deal from reading and interacting with fellow student papers in online classes.

    But, despite my defense of online classes – you are right that to a certain extent an online class is not quite the same. Forum interaction is different than in-person interaction.

    And I agree that discipline is REALLY required for an on-line class. So VERY easy to get distracted and press pause and go do something else. In fact, I should be listening to an online lecture now! : )

    Taking half of the classes online is the most that is allowed at my seminary. Other half must be taken in person. I am a distant student from the seminary’s main campus, but they have extension sites. I am so thankful for the extension site where I take classes. Prof’s fly in from the main campus to teach.

  5. Jonathan and LLM

    Fair enough. I personally have found online learning to not be as beneficial. I think it can be done well, and maybe this is point is partly attributed to my personality. I do think forums are generally not as good as personal interaction.

    If it works for others, praise the Lord.

  6. Patrick, I think you mean “wander from”. If you mean “wonder about”, that’s a pretty different meaning.

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