Editorial: Online classes aren’t right for everyone


Brandi Boyett

Students in Physics 222 learn from lab instructor Art Meyers on Thursday, Sept. 4. 

Editorial Board

Online classes: a convenient alternative or a sham of an education?

The average student often juggles not only a full course load but also a part- or full-time job, a relationship and financial struggles. For the thousands who work hard to make ends meet, spending all day on campus for classes is simply not a viable option.

In the case of these busybodies, online classes are an obvious solution. Unhindered by strict class meeting times, students may prioritize time spent on work, social life and classes as they wish. Downloading lecture materials to be viewed at will can be much more convenient than trooping to 50-minute classes three times a week.

With full-to-bursting enrollment, Iowa State has accommodated students by offering more online classes this year than ever, and indeed some students have reported that they much prefer online classes to face-to-face interaction.

There are benefits to online courses, and for some students they are by far the preferred method of education. What isn’t immediately apparent, however, are some of the flaws of virtual learning.

A national survey taken earlier this year by Millennial Branding showed that of more than 1,000 students, 78 percent believed learning in the classroom to be easier and more effective than learning through online courses.

In a smaller sampling of randomly selected ISU students, 11 out of 15 (73 percent) confirmed they feel they learn more in a classroom environment.

Obviously that small group of 15 cannot accurately represent the entire student body, but assuming that it does at least in part reflect the opinions of the whole, why are online classes so popular?

Of the same 15 students, eight (53 percent) said that they have received better grades in online courses than in classroom courses. If this trend is consistent throughout the student population, then it may be the selling point of online classes.

Despite the additional fee paid for online classes and the lack of face-to-face personal interaction, students are potentially choosing online classes because they are easier, if not to learn, then to pass.

Grade point averages are a source of much stress for college students, who would all rather graduate with a sterling resume and a gleaming “4.0” under the education heading. However, these improved grades may come at a cost.

The argument over the true goal of education has raged for years. In a perfect world, students would attend college with the end goal of an expanded intellect and better understanding of the world. But education has become only a means to an end: getting a job. This requires passable grades.

A good many students have the ability to learn much from online classes. It is widely agreed that what sets online learning apart is the heavy dependence upon individuals to put time and effort into the course. If you are willing to do that, online classes can be both convenient and educational.

However, do not willingly sacrifice education for the sake of an easy “A.” As online classes become more integrated in modern education they will only improve, but it will still be up to the individual to make the most of the virtual experience.