And so a new semester begins. I am teaching three online classes and taking one online class. Online classes are, to my mind, both as an instructor and as a student, more intense than face to face classes. There is never a time when you can have a slack day for catch up, or offer a lab day so students can have extra time on assignments. In the online world, schedules are tight and must be fairly rigid or the material is not adequately covered. What this means for online students is that they have to spend the first couple of weeks in class setting up their schedule, figuring out what is required and when it needs to be completed. More so than students in face to face classes, since instructors of face to face classes seldom give all the assignments for the semester up front. However, in an online class, this is the normal practice. So there is more upfront work for the instructor and the students.
So, with all that said, what are the advantages of an online class as opposed to a face to face class? Students know within the first week or so all the assignments they will have to complete, or at least the number of assignments if the assignments are blocked until a pre-determined time. Having this information makes it easier to plan for homework and assignments. Face to face course instructors often tell students the assignments a day or two before they are due. This provides flexibility for the instructor, but makes it hard for students to plan their weeks. If the course is designed well, students will have access to all the materials they need to complete their work (other than the textbook, of course). Online multiple choice exams are graded as soon as the student completes them, so that they know their scores. Students can also work at the time most convenient to them. Midnight or later class attendance is not uncommon. Online students adjust their course time to their lives, not the other way around. After work or after kids are put to bed, online students can spend time online, instead of having to take time out of a busy day to go to a classroom on a campus.
Online courses make it possible for more working adults to attend and graduate from college. I am a great proponent of online education, but I must admit that I miss teaching in a classroom.