More and more traditional colleges are offering classes online, challenging the traditional divisions between online schools and brick-and-mortar colleges. Some students are even allowed to take classroom-based courses, but are assigned to online classes.
“When I look back, I think it took away from my freshman year,” Kaitlyn Hartsock told the New York Times, of the online classes she had to take as a freshman at University of Florida, Gainesville. “My mom was really upset about it. She felt like she’s paying for me to go to college and not sit at home and watch through a computer.”
Resident students at University of Florida are earning 12 percent of their credits in online courses this semester, and that percentage is expected to rise. The all first-year Spanish classes at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill are only available online. At the University of Iowa, ten percent of the liberal arts undergraduates take an online class each semester.
The University of Florida also offers live streaming for many of its lecture courses, which are also archived. These “distance learning” technologies are not only convenient for students, but can also save colleges money. Many public institutions argue that offering online courses allows them to serve as many students as possible while keeping tuition in check, however, some feel that online classes do not offer the same quality of learning experience as face-to-face time with professors. Students who take online classes may also lose the benefit of class discussion and the feeling of community that a classroom can offer. It will be interesting to see how integrating online forums and other social networking tools can foster group discussions and debates to fill this gap, but like traditional classes, online classes pose their own set of challenges.
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