It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the middle of August and students all over will soon be returning to school to start the fall semester. Looking back, my memories are filled with challenging assignments, full course loads, late nights of studying, and the Virtual Classroom Best Practices guides that I would have to read before my online courses. Even so, I liked my time at University, but if I’m being honest, there are few things I actually miss about being a full-time student. These things all would put me under a lot of pressure – some more than others of course, but you can probably see why. For all the stress that those things put me through, I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t experience a wave of emotions – mostly excitement, every time a new semester was about to start, especially for my Freshman year. That year, I had to work a lot and lived nearly 3 hours away from campus, so when I found out that the University offered courses that had a “fully-online” offerings, I was thrilled! “This was great!” I thought. “A blessing even! I could watch these classes at own leisure, at any time during the semester! I could easily fit this into my schedule and not miss out on a single thing! What could possibly go wrong?
Wait, *pauses video* what? Can you explain… oh, right, nevermind… *play*
To say that I didn’t like these online courses, would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, they were extremely convenient – they saved me a lot of time and money but that’s about where the benefits ended. They were nothing like I was expecting. The entire process of learning was reduced to weekly multi-hour-long recordings of the in-class sessions, that you could watch at any time, but had to “viewed” within 72 hours of the in-class lecture to get attendance credits. I felt completely unengaged from the class and found it very difficult to focus on the content being delivered. Worse though, would be the somewhat random audio interruptions I would experience every now and then, that would cause me to miss out pieces of the session. Pieces that you would never be able to get back.
The video quality had the words written down on the chalkboard looking like hieroglyphics
I don’t know much about what platform my university used, but it seemingly had a hard and fixed low video quality limit – and that was a shame. The recordings were often shot with a camera stationed at the back of the class and like most cameras, the video quality would decrease significantly when the camera person zoomed in. The hardware and platform limitations meant that a close up of the Prof looked somewhat blurry, and most writings on the chalkboard – which I’m sure looked fine for those students inside the class, were unreadable scribbles. This made it harder to follow along, especially in my Calculus course, where the Professor would show us the step by step process to solve increasingly difficult integral equations. Needless to say, I did not to well in that class and definitely could have done better in all my other courses.
While the Virtual Classroom delivery platform my university used may have worked well for many students, I simply could not find it very conducive to me learning the material. It reduced the physical barriers and made it possible for me to take a class that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to take, but after my 1st year, I decided to stay clear of these courses. I am jealous of students at Universities like Georgetown, Cal State, and others, who have the benefit of a true virtual classroom platform like Vantage Point allowing them the freedom of not being in class, but without sacrificing the learning, in fact, many students at those schools, rated their virtual classroom experience superior to in class.