Well, these readings hit a lot closer to home this week than any of us expected.
I’ve never had to take a class fully online. And yet, for the next month and a half or so, I’m going to have to get a lot more comfortable with using technology in all of my courses. I’ve certainly used my laptop in the past to do research, but outside of the projects I’m working on for this class and using Google Docs to collaborate on projects last semester, it’s rarely gone deeper than that. I’m not too concerned about myself, though – most of my courses will be using Zoom to do class meetings, and most of our assignments can be submitted online. But I was concerned about the impact this might have on undergraduates’ education.
If my undergraduate institution is any indication, undergrads are concerned about that as well. A friend of mine made a Facebook post showing comments from students who didn’t want to leave campus and move to online courses. While the broader point of the post was to show the entitlement of a select few students (and it does – I’m not linking to the post because the way that some students put themselves before the health and safety of others is frankly disgusting to me), I thought that this particular comment was relevant to our readings this week:
Ignoring the selfishness here, I think this demonstrates a lot of students’ feelings about taking courses online; it is an inferior educational experience to having in-person classes. I wonder: is this true, or is it just what we’ve been taught to think?
This article on learning management systems claims that while LMS can be a great tool for students, it should only serve as a compliment to in-class instruction. The same website also asked students about their learning preferences with regards to online courses, and provided data showing that students generally prefer in-person classes. However, when looking at the “BA Public” section (which I would assume has the highest number of online students, though I may be wrong), more students are open to the idea of mostly or fully online courses. Does this mean that students who actually take online courses enjoy the experience, and don’t see a noticeable change in learning when compared to in-person-class students? I don’t know. If anyone can find data on this, I’d love to see it.
Of course I recognize that online learning has its drawbacks. I was saddened but not surprised when reading this book chapter about Wikipedia and Women’s History, which details how hard it can be to include women in Wikipedia articles due to the biases of those who edit Wikipedia. As I read through, I became more and more discouraged about the possibility of an open-source website like Wikipedia to be truly inclusive. But wait! I thought to myself, “This class project was done in 2011, and the book was published in 2013! Surely things have changed in seven years!” Things have not changed. I don’t know what the solution is, but we first need to acknowledge that this is a serious issue with very dangerous ramifications for digital learning.