The Online Learning Adventure

30 Jan

So, I was hoping to have a delightfully witty post this week. I was in Texas last week visiting the Jeni, and was so certain that I would have the crazy groping antics of the TSA to chatter on about. Unfortunately, I was utterly ignored by the agents in Chicago on my way out–they barely even glanced as I went through the metal detectors, and certainly didn’t notice my .8 oz tube of toothpaste that was definitely -not- securely stored in a zip-loc baggie. On the way back, there was a line rather than the entirely abandoned outpost of which we were victims on the way out, but still, no backscatter, no groping, not even the patdown I got when I was on my way to Japan last year.

So instead, I’m going to talk about school.

I mentioned doing the schooling in an earlier post. At the time I wrote that post, I was still waiting for my final grade, so I could not go into all that much detail about things. Now, I have my grade–4.0–but I cannot remember all that I wanted to say. Still, a deep, stunning impression was left. To wit: WTF.

This was my first foray into the world of online education, and it was certainly not encouraging. My brother had previously taken a mostly online course, and didn’t have great things to say about it; errors in assignments that he had to point out to the professor, a multiple choice question on the final exam that lacked a correct answer, that sort of thing. Despite this, I had hope. I had hope despite the fact that every question on every lab was a topic heading in the book followed by “Describe your reaction to/experience with/observations on this topic.” I had hope even though we were being linked, for the Linux portion of the class, to ten and twelve year old websites, half of which were not there. I even had hope after there was a quiz question that had two of the same answer.

I chose the wrong one. I did manage to get that corrected. But I did keep hope.

When I lost hope was when I submitted my lab on Halloween. I’d screwed around most of the day, and ran out of time to finish the lab. When I got full marks on that half finished, half wrong lab assignment, that’s when I lost hope. No, not even the week before, when I’d submitted my lab with a desperate plea for commentary other than “You have completed all the requirements for this lab, keep up the good work” on the topics about which I still felt entirely clueless. No, it was at the point at which I realized I could entirely blow the class off and still ace it.

I didn’t. Even though the Windows 7 information was ridiculously easy and the Linux ridiculously difficult, and even though I’m not sure my instructor was actually reading anything I sent in, I did honestly do my best. I did better than him, even: my writing was actually college level, and I spellchecked according to his requests. I did not misspell words such as “privilege” in any of my lab work. I cannot say the same for him.

I even studied for the final exam. This final exam allotted us an hour for a fifty question multiple choice test. I finished it in eight minutes, and got fifty points. Really, though, I got forty three points, because there were only forty-three unique questions, and seven duplicates. Yes, that’s correct. 14% of the final exam of a college level course was a gimmie, or, if you answered them wrong the first time, an extra loss. Fortunately, by the time that rolled around, I was no longer shocked by that sort of thing.

What disturbs me is that my course and the course my brother took were both run by not-for-profit, accredited institutions of higher learning, one a two-year community college and the other a four-year college. These were not shady, back-alley, who-the-hell-is-really-in-charge here educational dealings. Is this really what distance learning is like? Can we do no better than half- or quarter-assed classes?

Needless to say, the courses I’m taking this term are in-classroom courses. The only blip so far is that the original instructor had to pull out at the last minute with an emergency. Reportedly, that emergency is that she recently failed to pass the certification test for which this class is training us.

The facepalm goes here.

Has anyone else out there taken an online distance learning course? Did you maybe have a better experience? Share with the class.

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3 Responses to “The Online Learning Adventure”

  1. Mishaweha January 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I had taken an online course at my university once (nothing that I needed, just an elective type), and it wasn’t too bad. There were a few questions that were wrong, but they were quickly fixed. We never had duplicate questions, and questions always appeared in random order for quizzes, to help prevent cheating.

    It wasn’t as rigorous as on-site classes, I think, just because of all of the multiple choice, but it wasn’t a horribly put together class, either.

    I think some of it depends on the software you’re using to distribute the online content, and how much effort the professor wants to put into teaching a class they can’t see.

  2. itanya_blade February 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I have never had these issues in any on-line class I took while in college.

    I have taken three writing courses, a sequence on Shakespeare, a course on Humor in British media and a course in Japanese religion.

    Some of the classes were easy, but would have been easy in class (say business writing, or a required writing class.) Others were strenuous. I took a required course in writing term papers. The professor there wanted weekly progress updates, strenuously reviewed research, especially on topics she was not familiar with and gave excellent feedback.

    The course I took on Japanese religion was taught by an American Buddhist Monk. The discussion forums were as vibrant as class discussions I had in person at any of the other philosophy courses I took on campus.

    The problems I see described here are really disturbing. Since I attended very large public American universities, I can’t imagine that they were the best at supplying the highest quality software, but the teachers were dedicated and involved. I think that if I had had any of the experiences either of you had, I would have been much more leery.

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    […] three weeks into my summer online course, which is laid in stark contrast to my first online course. As noted above, the teacher is engaged and quick about grading and helped edit the textbook and is […]

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