Computers vs. Classrooms

by Brandon Naff

Horizon Reporter

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

That’s why some students choose to ‘attend’ online classes.

Online classes allow for a student to set his or her own schedule, rather than be tied to a class every certain day (or days) of the week. That’s a great benefit for those who work full time, or have children.

“Online classes just allow for so much more flexibility in scheduling,” said Alivia Jelinski, 19. “My life is never the same two days in a row, so I’m able to sit down at my computer and do the schoolwork for the class when I’m in the mood for it.”

There are two types of online classes, both of which use the system “Angel Learning” through Washington Online, or WAOL.

The first type, identified in the Whatcom Community College course catalog as ONL, have a unique start and stop date, meaning these dates can differ from Whatcom quarter start and end dates. Furthermore, instructors and students can come from all over the state, and are not limited to Whatcom alone.

The other type of online class is tagged with OL in the course catalog, which is an online class only taught by Whatcom instructors, for Whatcom students. The quarter start and end dates are consistent with ‘face-to-face’ classes, but still use the Angel Learning system.

There is a ‘hybrid’ option available, in which students are able to attend a classroom one day a week, and attend the rest of their classes online.

Some use online classes to fit their busy schedules, while others feel it’s nice to be able to work at their own pace, and the speed of the class moves how they want it to.

However, the phrase, “the grass is not always greener on the other side” comes to mind. Some online classes do not have ‘checkpoints’ and student may have no motivation to stay on a timeline.

“If a student is not prepared, it can be very difficult,” said Al Epp, distance learning coordinator at Whatcom. “One difference between online and face-to-face classes is, everyone has to participate.”

“I get stuck sometimes and that makes me discouraged,” Phillip Goodwin, 18, explained. “You get further and further behind until you just kind of give up…I had that experience twice now. I probably won’t try an online class again.”

Epp had mentioned that he sees a slightly higher drop rate in online classes over face-to-face classes, but said it’s hard to get the statistical data because often times a student will just stop attending in both online and face to face classes, and not officially drop the class from their transcript.

Sometimes if a student is struggling with the material, they can’t even meet with their instructor. Often times, an instructor for an online class at Whatcom will also proctor (meaning teach for an online class) several other schools, and may even be located in another part of the state.

 The key to being successful in any type of online class is organization and motivation, and not procrastinating.

“You can’t wait until the last minute to do everything,” said Epp. “You should get online at least once a day.”

If a student gets behind on their coursework it can be very difficult to maintain a decent grade. “Very few times do instructors accept late work,” said Epp.

According to Kasi Cheldelin, online classes are “not that hard. I’m taking 18 credits online this summer.” However she did say it wasn’t for everyone, “If you aren’t self-motivated then don’t even consider it.”

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