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Defending the old school

March 23, 2013
  • Students at Glendale Community College attend class the traditional way, but online education is growing as an option.
Students at Glendale Community College attend class the traditional way,… (Christina House / For The…)

One sure way to draw reaction to a letter is to unfavorably compare another's work to yours. Dorothy LaGrandeur of Huntington Beach did precisely that in her letter published Wednesday discussing online education, to which several classroom instructors quickly fired off responses. LaGrandeur wrote:

"My company has been offering online college courses for eight years. Our instructors receive an email whenever a student posts a query on the course discussion board. The student will, within 24 hours, receive an answer or a request for clarification. Responses vary from a few words to several pages in length.

"Try getting this sort of response in a physical classroom or tracking down a college instructor after class.

"Can taking online courses satisfy college requirements? If the college allows courses to be completed by examination, the training online classrooms such as mine provide may improve a student's chances better than if he were left to track down help from an unwilling instructor at a physical college."

College art instructor Robert Kibler writes:

"At Glendale Community College, where I have taught for many years, students have lots of ways to interact with their instructors and get their questions aired, discussed and answered. They can actually raise their hands in class and ask the question out loud, listen to the instructor's response and hear what their fellow students might think — you know, a real-time discussion of ideas.

"The student could also meet the instructor after class or during office hours, or he could email a teacher and get a response within 24 hours.

"And it's not as if online instruction and physical classrooms are mutually exclusive. Most college instructors today use the Internet extensively in their courses. Students in our 'physical classrooms' have access to a wide variety of supplementary online course materials — and a real, live person to help them should they need it."

Kip Fulbeck, an art professor at UC Santa Barbara, writes:

"LaGrandeur cites professors responding to student questions within 24 hours. 'Try getting this sort of response in a physical classroom or tracking down a college instructor after class,' she challenges.

"I've taught at the university level for 20 years, and I typically stay 30 minutes or more after each class speaking with students. Questions are answered immediately, followed by critical dialogue, analysis and socialization. My returning students can and do reach me by text or phone to schedule extra meetings, critiques and exhibition viewings, resulting in my spending more time with students outside the classroom than inside. This is typical for most of my colleagues.

"Online education has great potential, but it will never equal the beauty of teaching through real human interaction."


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