“Are you looking to get a degree in law enforcement? At Oklahoma Wesleyan University, you can now enroll 100% online,” the radio blared. I blanched, wishing I could temporarily intercept the broadcasting waves and interject my disgust. “What a travesty to learning!” I thought. “How dare he promote that?” I drove on, trying to keep calm. “Do these OWU professors even know what they were doing to society?” I pondered. To my chagrin, the advertiser refused to end his rant. “Yes, this special course, hand-crafted for the working adult, is now available exclusively online,” the speaker kept booming jubilantly. Finally the ad ended, and I heaved a sigh of relief. This semester I’ve experimented with an online class or two for the first time, and I can’t stand it. Internet-based classes are the sorriest excuse for education I’ve ever seen.
What I hate most about an online class is that it doesn’t teach me as much as a real class does. Case in point, I’m learning very little from my online history class. It consists of nothing but timed quizzes and exams. I’m not talking to anybody, and I’m not listening to any interesting stories about what happened in 1905. I’m just flipping through an oversized book and filling out boring tests. In contrast, I’m learning tons in my onsite programming class. Not only do I learn from the professor, but I learn from other students. Everyone in the room knows something I don’t. Even the most unlikely programming student, a former football player named Corey, showed me how to properly code my “for loop” during an intense in-class assignment. Once we both knew how to do it, we shared the solution with others. This gave us an opportunity to look at each other’s code and listen to each other’s questions. That could never happen online.
Secondly, I cannot forge new relationships in an online class. For instance, I can’t even name the students in my online history class. I’ve never met the professor! However, I know nearly every student in my programming class because I spend five hours with them every week. I know the teacher well and appreciate her ability to explain concepts with a beginner’s mindset. Bottom line, if I’m going to spend time and money taking a college course, I want as much mileage from it as possible. I’m spinning my wheels if I’m not meeting new people.
Finally, online classes leave me less satisfied than real classes do. I hate to say it, but there’s something depressing about the Internet. It leaves me in a vacuum. When I spend all day working on the Internet, I feel as though I’ve not really done anything spectacular. This tends to discourage me even if the project is worthwhile. For example, I began two online classes this semester, but I became so dissatisfied with my online biology class that I dropped it. Was the professor expecting me to handle the lab experiments all by myself, with nothing but virtual instructions? Help! I felt sorry for the online students who stayed in that class. How dissatisfied they must have been!
If your goal is to learn little, meet few people, and remain dissatisfied with life, then I suggest you take your laptop into your monastery of choice, lock the doors, and take all the online courses you please. But don’t dare email me about how good your life is. I’m too busy learning with live, charismatic humans to interact with your dead laptop.
This illustrative thesis originally appeared in print for my Composition I class. I couldn’t resist sharing it here.