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Online classes are flexible alternatives to their face-to-face counterparts | The Triangle

Online classes are flexible alternatives to their face-to-face counterparts

Photograph courtesy of Pxfuel.

Up until this term, online classes were uncharted territory for me. I could never quite put my finger on what exactly it was about online classes that kept me away from them, but I always avoided them at almost all costs. The only reason I am taking an online course this term is because I had no other option. If it were up to me, I would have much preferred to take the class in a face-to-face setting.

To my surprise though, the class has been extremely good. Being that it is American Literature, I knew that I would enjoy the content, but I wasn’t sure how much the online format would impact my overall experience.

Hybrid classes have always been my favorite type of class format. The face-to-face classes that have two or three lectures a week are fine, but I’ve always felt that they are a bit too linear in terms of their flexibility.  As the majority of the work takes place in the actual lectures, if a professor gets sick or can’t hold class for some reason then a lot of valuable time and information gets lost. Whereas with a hybrid course, the majority of the work takes place online in the form of journal entries, discussion board posts or some other kind of online assignment. You also get that one face-to-face meeting a week, so you aren’t completely devoid of having some kind of in-person interaction with your professor and peers.

I think that the lack of that in-person interaction is what kept me away from online classes for pretty much all my time at Drexel. Depending on how a lecture is structured, students can get a lot or a little from them and they also provide some regular interaction with the professor, which is something that I think goes a bit undervalued. I’ve heard the horror stories of people taking online classes with a professor that is unresponsive to emails and impossible to get a hold of. This isn’t the case with my class this term, thankfully, and I now realize that those unresponsive professors are probably not the most common kind.

While online classes do lack face-to-face experience, I think they make up for it by offering students a lot of flexibility when it comes to completing work each week. Having all the work laid out for us on Sunday and then not having it be due until the end of the week is such a good method. It gives students plenty of time to get the work done and more importantly, it eliminates surprises.

There is nothing worse than having a professor move homework around in the middle of the week. Pushing the due date for a paper back is nice, but deciding to push both the first half and second half of a book into week four so the entire thing can be on the midterm the following week is not exactly pleasant. It’s not impossible for this same thing to happen in online classes, but I feel as though the chances of it happening are far lower because the assignments are not structured around face-to-face meetings that can potentially be cancelled.

The consistency that an online class provides, in terms of when work is due to be completed, is nice and made me realize that I have been burned many times by face-to-face classes when it comes to a lack of consistency. And as good as the consistency is, it isn’t the greatest aspect of online classes. That is a title that I’ve given to the absence of attendance.

Yes, that is correct. The fact that online classes have no attendance policy is the best aspect of all. The number of times that I’ve wanted to skip class but couldn’t because of the attendance policy penalty is ridiculous and quite frankly, absurd.

The assistant editor of the opinion section, Michaela Graf, wrote an article last week called “Attendance should be an option, not a requirement,” discussing many of the problems that attendance policies create for students. So, I won’t go into detail about the attendance policies, but I will say that the lack of attendance policy in online classes is a welcome change of pace. It is simply nice to not have to attend a class on a weekly basis and worry about what the consequences will be if you miss the class, even if you miss it for a legitimate reason.

I still do prefer hybrid courses over both online and face-to-face lecture courses, as I think hybrids do a great job of offering a good blend of both experiences. That said, I’ve become more accepting of online courses after having finally taken one, and I can gladly recommend them to anyone who is on the fence about taking one. All three types of courses have their own pros and cons, and while you may prefer one experience over the other two, don’t let that stop you from branching out and giving the other ones a chance from time to time.