Distance education is a topic that has been much debated. Online classes raise many concerning questions. How can a student learn when the student is not sitting in front of a teacher? How can a student possibly be motivated when he or she has never met the professor before? Don’t online classes promote procrastination to study for tests?
Find more videos like this on Auburn Family
All of these questions raise concern with parents, professors and students, but Auburn University is promoting the benefits of distance education and is bettering its program.
Monica Deture, director of distance learning at Auburn, said that there are two types of students that online classes benefit in different ways: the traditional student and the non-traditional student.
A traditional, on-campus student reaps several advantages from online classes. Some students cannot get into all of the classes that they need for a semester, or their work schedule makes acquiring classes difficult. Distance education alleviates these problems.
“A prime example is in the summer, when a student only needs one or two classes and doesn’t need to be renting his or her apartment,” Deture said. “Also, students studying abroad could pick up another class or two by distance. That way, students are really maximizing their schedules so that they can graduate on time.”
The real target student for distance learning is the non-traditional student, who is defined as an older person, full-time employee, a person with dependents, married or with a first degree.
Auburn offers 20 master’s programs by distance, and is now focusing on offering undergraduate options.
“There are many students in Alabama and beyond who are non-traditional, who still want access to higher education,” Deture said. “Especially now with the economy like it is, lots of older folks want to go back and get a further education.”
Deture realizes students’ perceptions that distance courses are not as beneficial as face-to-face courses. Some students feel that they will not have the same instructor access or the same bonding relationship with other students. However, research shows that in terms of actual student learning, distance courses are just as beneficial, if not more so, than some face-to-face courses.
The department of education recently published a meta-analysis that showed comparisons between face-to-face classes, fully online classes and blended courses, which are a mixture of both classroom and online instruction. Deture said that the hybrid versions are producing greater overall learning outcomes.
“I have heard anecdotal reports from faculty and students that they may actually feel a greater sense of participation or access to students and faculty in a distance course because its kind of 24/7,” Deture said. “There are discussion boards or chat rooms, depending on how the course is set up. There may be a lot more interaction in a distance course than a classroom, especially if you compare to a large lecture hall class.”
Auburn is working to increase awareness of the distance learning options that it offers. So, students, before registering for spring classes, think about how distance education could benefit you.