May 25, 2016
Over the past year, I’ve been working my way through the Provincial Instructors Diploma at Vancouver Community College and made the conscious choice to take much of it online. I’ve had people ask me the pros and cons of taking on such an endeavor – here are a few of my thoughts, based on my experience.
- Access to Content – In the PID program, I am given approximately eight weeks online to complete each course. The contact time per course when offered as a face-to-face module is one week. My brain is pretty small, so it needs more time to soak up information, sift and sort it and then find a free shelf in which to put it on. (I’ve mixed metaphors here. Apparently by writing this blog post I’ve shifted something else up there out of place.)
- Convenience – If I have time at 6:30 a.m. to work on an assignment (early morning weirdo), I can do so. I can still work full-time and schedule other life-related activities (cleaning the bathroom) that need to happen around my homework schedule.
- Depth of Content – With all the links, YouTube videos and pdf copies of articles, I have plenty of content to help with my assignments.
- On-Line Library – Being able to access articles through the VCC Library has been an amazing resource. I don’t have to travel to learn.
- Colleagues – Just because I’m online doesn’t mean I don’t ever talk to others. Each course has at least some degree of contact time with other students and I learn at least as much from them as I do from the instructor and the content. My fellow students are gifted in their own right and give me lots to think about in areas I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
Cons (not like prison)
- Face time – I’m not talking about the iPad chatting feature, but it is related. While we have been introduced to software such as Skype, Facetime and oVoo, seeing another person’s face on a screen is not the same as sitting next to them in a room. I am not particularly bothered by this, but some people are.
- Communication – While instructors often make themselves available using these software tools, I tend to be reticent to use them because I feel as though I’m bothering them. I’m more inclined to send an email, but realistically, it takes three email messages back and forth to do what one quick live chat could do.
- Synergy – Sometimes, when in a classroom, a discussion can erupt that changes the points of view of those present. Ideas, arguments, counter-arguments, illustrations, examples, all fly in a flurry of conversation that is very difficult to reproduce in an on-line environment.
- Comraderie – Going for coffee during the break, chatting about ideas you learned in class or about what you did that weekend. You get to know those in your class in a different way than you do in an online environment. I’m not saying relationships/friendships can’t form between online students, but it’s a lot tougher.
- Motivation – For those who are procrastinators, it’s easier to get behind in an online environment and harder to catch up once you have.
I think it comes down to personal personal preference as well as the quality of the online materials/platform. A great article on the pros and cons of online learning (as well as face-to-face and hybrid) can be found here – http://bit.ly/1FLQwON, compliments of my PIDP 3250 colleague, Shawna.
What works for you?