Opinions & Editorials

Opinion: Virtual classrooms strain brains

By Graham Henderson

In the 2007 school year, enrollment in online college classes rose by 12 percent. Nearly four million college students take one or more online classes in the United States alone, according to a press release from Sloan Consortium, which bills itself as “The nation’s largest association of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education.”

In California, students can choose to attend high school via online classes. While many high schools offer courses online, some schools are online exclusively.

Insight School, which has campuses in Los Angeles and the North Bay, has only online classes. As a public school, it is free to residents, and even provides computers.

One of the most difficult parts of taking online classes is being focused and self disciplined. The internet is a serious distraction — staying on task is difficult when a whole world of Youtube, Facebook, games and porn are only a click away.

It’s hard enough for college students, who are attending college because they want to be, to stay focused. Focusing is even harder for high school students, who are attending classes because they have to, even if they would prefer to be somewhere else.

Even if students are able to stay focused long enough to pass their online class, they are still missing an important aspect of high school: Social education. How to interact and function with peers is one of the most important lessons learned in school.

While online classes often offer message boards to try to facilitate discussion and debate, posting a message on a bulletin board in no way teaches students how to speak in front of the class.

Hypothetically, a student could earn both their high school diploma and a college degree without ever attending a real class. When they enter the working world, they will lack the necessary abilities to work with people. Knowing how to function in a social setting is just as important as having a degree.

This is a worst-case scenario, but even college students who choose to take only one online class may be getting short changed. According to an article in the Des Moines Register, the University of Iowa was forced to set limits on how many online classes professors could teach.

Online classes require much less time to be put in by the instructor, so professors would take on far more classes then they otherwise would have been able to.

Not only do students miss the opportunity for important social learning, but students also receive less time from the instructor and receive a lower quality education.

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