About 15 staff members and students gathered Friday at Memorial Union for a discussion panel about online learning opportunities at MU.
Two students who had participated in online courses through MU were physically present at the panel, and two other students attended virtually through Blackboard Collaborate.
“I took two online classes, (and) they were vastly different,” junior Amanda Kappele said. “One was extremely organized – the class was very intensive, we had a few hours of homework every day, but that’s the way I liked it. I felt like I was really learning.”
Graduate student Lacy Rakestraw, who phoned into the panel, said she said she enjoys how learning online brings people together and is more convenient for her.
“I’m in St. Louis, and most of the profs are in Columbia,” Rakestraw said. “I’m in my pajamas – you don’t know.”
Graduate student Paige Dainty said she agreed online learning is more convenient.
“I like the way they worked because you could do them from home, especially with my program when there are classes at night,” Dainty said. “It’s nice to be able to stay at home.”
Junior Adam Halley said he took a hybrid course, which involved two online lectures and one in-class lecture each week. Convenience was also a large factor for him, he said.
“It is a really good experience, especially for kids who have to work.” Halley said. “It gives kids time to not only see the professor in person and be able to shake their hand, but also it gives them leeway to also do work at their own pace and on their own time.”
Though each of the students had different experiences, all said they agreed communication was important in online courses.
“Communication is the key,” Halley said. “Always. In class and in online classes, being able to talk to students like you know them personally, that means more to a student than anything else.”
Kappele said she thinks communication is important when group projects are involved.
“In projects, we all have to agree what parts to work on.” she said.
Students also had a common complaint: Their professors occasionally needed to learn more about the technology being used.
“The involvement of the teacher is biggest factor in my mind – whether they know how to work the website or not, if they know how to make Tegrities or not,” Kappele said.
“Some professors aren’t adequately trained in using Blackboard,” Rakestraw said. “I wish more professors, and TAs too, went through more training in how to use the program.”
After students shared their thoughts, Linda Esser — a teaching professor at the School of Information, Science and Learning Technologies — provided context for the rise of e-learning at MU.
“When I came here 14 years ago, we were using a ‘Model Ford’ version of Blackboard,” Esser said. “It was real rudimentary. Now we’ve gone to technology that’s sort of a trip to the moon, and we keep going.”
Esser said she sees a definite expansion of the program in the future.
“Absolutely, we’re going to have to (add more classes online).” Esser said. “Research indicates students learn as well, if not better, online. Everybody’s moving stuff online in order to stay competitive — you have got to do it. There will not be a choice.”