By Tanya Pechous, Ed.D. | May 1, 2017
I was just out to dinner with one of my good friends who shared how she was so upset about her final four elective courses toward earning her degree. She stated these courses were only offered online and how she needed the face-to-face interaction to learn so didn’t think she would be able to meet the requirements. Now I’m not going to lie; I will be the first one to tell you I prefer face-to-face courses or hybrids, because I love escaping
my kids for a few hours per week to interact with students—talking with adult learners is much more beneficial for me than watching another episode of Paw Patrol
. Ha! Sad but true.
Seriously, I do come across students who don’t understand all of the benefits of taking a course online. Marian’s Adult Program
(MAP) always keep the learner’s best interest in mind which is why we began shifting some classes to the online environment. Let’s talk about some of the benefits of taking online courses at MAP.
CANVAS is a fantastic tool.
We understand that everyone has a different starting place in terms of their computer skills. MAP makes this beginning point easy for any adult learner as we use CANVAS, one of the most user-friendly online learning management systems I’ve personally experienced. With our online classes, we also use the same basic set-up for each course so navigation is always similar if not the exact same. Students can quickly see their courses, grades, important announcements, just to name a few of the options. The CANVAS app can also be downloaded free of charge to any smartphone so students can get real-time feedback and updates among other things.
Convenience and flexibility. Online courses help to serve a larger purpose of offering convenience and flexibility to busy adult learners. The courses are designed so students can pace themselves while still meeting the course objectives and deadlines. In terms of time management, students are in control of when they complete the work. You can literally upload your assignment at any time, from any location, so long as you have computer access. The online instructors post video or audio lectures which cover the critical information and provide clarification on assignment requirements. Instructors also provide email feedback to students through the CANVAS email system. Online courses allow more adult learners to attend classes by removing the pressure to be inside a classroom by 5:45 p.m. (a time commitment some working adults can’t make).
Group discussions and learning opportunities. To make sure students feel connected and bonded with their online peers, many instructors use the Discussion or Conference tools in CANVAS. I am the “Queen of Discussion forums” and use them with all of my online classes. I love talking to and learning with students, so discussions are a great way to do this. I have two primary types of discussion posts: one is usually in response to watching a video, and the other is in response to a specific assignment or case related to the class. Students submit an initial post, then they respond to other students’ postings to complete an assignment. The dialogue exchanges from these posts helps students learn about one another, engages students in a collaborative learning environment, and helps students learn about the actual topic(s) that week.
Another technique used in some of my online courses, is that students “dial in” via their telephone or computer at a designated date/time during the first week of class so we have a virtual introduction to myself and the business partner we work with for the course. This enables all students to see one another if they have a web cam enabled; all are able to hear each other’s voices; and all are able to asks questions. This makes a class feel “connected” despite being miles apart. These calls are fun and the personalities of classmates really show so bonding begins very early on.
So, my advice to you is the exact same advice I gave my girlfriend—calm down; learning online has phenomenal benefits. I say this to you as well—don’t fret over a course being online. Learning takes place in many formats and this is another tool that will get you to your goal of graduating and earning your degree. Who knows? You may even find that you prefer online courses once you try your first one.