Technology has been lauded for improving education and providing a multitude of opportunities for both students and teachers in the classroom. One of the ways technology has revolutionized the classroom is the invention of online classes. These are now quite common and used for everything from retaking failed classes to getting ahead with extra Ap or IB courses.
But how much are they actually helping?
I remember my senior year I took Latin 2 online. I needed another class to meet graduation requirements, and my guidance counselor said colleges would like to see that I had had experience with an online format.
For an hour and a half I would go to a dark room in the building across from the weight room that also housed wood shop, band and jrotc, sit at a computer for an hour and a half with my headphones in so I wasn’t distracted by the tv that always had Sports Center on, and drudge through assignments, audio lectures, and tests.
I didn’t have a very good foundation for the class because my Latin 1 teacher was more interested in telling us that he was the descendent of the Bacardi family, and maybe that is part of the reason why online Latin 2 was a struggle for me, but I think it also had to do with the fact that at 17 I wasn’t prepared to be expected to do work on a computer for 90 minutes with no structure other than everything had to be done by the end of the week.
I think that online classes can be beneficial for students and technology can definitely be an asset when incorporated correctly into the classroom, but I think it still requires some oversight. I am not sure if it is structured differently in other schools, but there was no oversight from the teacher in the physical classroom, and the online teacher could only do so much with communication via email occasionally. I think a form of hybrid classroom could be helpful in preparing students for college where a lot of work is done online and managing your time is vital to success, but I just don’t think throwing students into one classroom and expecting them to do school work on a computer for an extended amount of time is ideal or even likely.
I also think that the content of the class is compromised in online high school courses. It isn’t the same learning it online as it is having a physical teacher present to explain the information, answer questions, and even possibly demonstrate some concepts. Online the student is expected to teach a lot of the content to themselves. I know for me, I utilized a lot of Google translate and outside sources to help me finish my assignments and didn’t necessarily learn very much Latin. That might be because I wasn’t as disciplined as I should have been and looking back I wish I had taken it more seriously, but I don’t think I was alone in simply trying to get through the course the easiest way possible in the second semester of my senior year.
I am in no way saying online classes are all bad or should be removed from schools, but rather that we should continue forming them into better modes of education so students benefit as much as possible from the experience and are prepared for the next steps in their lives.