Editor’s note (4/9/19, 5:08 p.m.): A previous version of this column mischaracterized four sections of Math 100 as simply “online classes.” These classes are, in fact, lab sections only intended for distance learners. Only a small number of students on campus were allowed to enroll in these sections. We apologize for this inaccuracy.
Online courses are a great way to cut costs and expand learning opportunities for students who require more flexibility in their schedules. However, some classes are only offered online, or all of the face-to-face classes fill up rapidly, leaving many students left with no other option but the online version. Not only do online classes allow students to be lazy and, in some cases, to save all of the coursework for the very end of the semester, but they also lead many students to cheat on quizzes and exams, deterring them from really learning the material.
While there are both positives and negatives associated with online classes, I argue that online classes as a whole should not be a part of college students’ education, as they do not prepare students to earn a degree and be qualified to perform a job in that degree.
In high school, students go from an 8 a.m.-3 p.m. workday to after-school activities and homework. In college, students catch a break and have a wide range of options in what they want their school day to look like, as they only have to attend about two to three classes a day. After college, once students are employed, they once again go back to going to work at 9 a.m. and leaving work at 5 p.m. College students are already underprepared for the workforce simply because of the hours they are used to working; however, they are even more underprepared with online classes. Online classes do not require students to show up to class, so the idea of getting out of bed for work is completely foreign, even for students who only take a few online classes. Additionally, online classes don’t need to be worked on every day, allowing students to feel content not checking up on their daily tasks once they get into the real world.
According to an article in the The New York Times, “In high schools and colleges, there is mounting evidence that the growth of online education is hurting a critical group: the less proficient students who are precisely those most in need of skilled classroom teachers.”
Personally, I’ve overheard several students discuss the online math classes at The University of Alabama. They have explained to tutors, classmates and parents that they don’t expect to do well in the class and don’t feel bad if they don’t do well, as they are expected to teach themselves a subject they have either never had or were not good at in the past.
According to a Brookings Institute study, while there is no evidence of a change in performance for high-achieving students when it comes to online classes, “for students with below median prior GPA, the online classes reduced grades by 0.5 or more.” Not only do underperforming students face more academic setbacks in the presence of online classes, but they are also less likely to receive an education at all. The same study explains that “in the semester after taking an online course, students are about 9 percentage points less likely to remain enrolled [in school].”
Instead of leaving UA students who need the most assistance to fend for themselves we should further help those students by requiring they take in-person classes taught by instructors who are passionate about the material and who care about the students.