Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why are Online Students Failing? (Also, why is asking and answering your own questions kind of creepy?)

Troubling news here. A new study shows that online classes are under-performing:

The study, conduced by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, looked at more than 50,000 students in Washington state’s community or technical college system. What they found was that students who load up on online classes, especially early in their higher education careers, are less likely to finish their degrees. This is worrisome, especially because, as CCRC notes in its report, the number of students taking online courses is only increasing.

As one person pointed out in the comment section of the above article, "correlation does not necessarily mean causation."

(That's one of those things you're supposed to say occasionally if you have a college degree, just to signal your level of education to others....nonetheless, it's a good point.)

That is, the kinds of students who take online courses tend to be busy with families and full-time jobs. They are non-traditional and might not be prioritizing school. The study isn't necessarily a commentary on online courses, but instead a commentary that online courses might not be the best route for students who can dedicate enough time and energy to schooling.

It could also be a commentary on how online courses currently suck, to be perfectly academic.

Whatever the case may be, the number of online courses offered in the United States is on a strong upward trend. The question isn't "Should we have online courses or not?" Instead, in light of the inevitable, the question should be "How can we make online courses better?"

I don't know.

Will you keep asking questions as if there is someone else in the room?

You bet.

Why was this never charming when Donald Rumsfeld did it?

Because he was always lying.

I suspect the answer lies in some kind of Marshall McLuhan quip about how we are failing to understand the internet as a medium, that we're pouring new wine into old skins, let's say, or perhaps we're driving forward while looking in the rear-view mirror.

This is why people never understood Marshall McLuhan. He said weird things like that.

He was, however, right. Radio shows don't work on television. People tried. Maybe it was a safe transitional thing to do. But in retrospect, it looks pretty stupid. You have to start making something that works exclusively on television in order to harness the power of the medium and play to its strengths.

In other words, you can't take a traditional course, upload it onto Blackboard, and expect it to come out as an online course.


  1. So funny!! I really need to step up my online class so it doesn't suck.

    So now I will ask questions in hopes that someone else will answer them instead of myself!

    I've been wondering how to teach students to use DMACC's online databases. If my class is a face-to-facer, then I have a librarian come in to teach the students while I nod and smile encouragingly(and sometimes try to grade a few papers.)
    So how do I teach these skill online? Is there a librarian out there who has a tutorial?
    Do I just try to write it out? Do I use Jing?

  2. In theory, there would be one "how to use the database" video either created by the library or the English dept or whoever. Jing is kind of worthless in my opinion because it only allows for a five minute video. (maybe there are expanded versions, not sure). the best product is Camtasia, which is a fancy screen capture, but its costs close to $300 retail. I think you can get an educator discount, and I don't think it's available through DMACC bookstore. I need to do some checking though and see if it could be available for us. I've use a free 30-day trial and it's pretty slick. It automatically zooms in where your mouse cursor is and you can edit the video afterward, etc. then you can just upload to youtube. I've actually been using a free, open source screen cast called Camtasia, and it works pretty well. It's just much more limited. I did, not all that long ago, use it to make a video on how to use Google Scholar, etc., though without the ability to edit, it was just too long and needs to be redone.

  3. I meant the free program was CamStudio 2.0

    Camtasia is the expensive one made by TechSmith