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Empty Seats January 24, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Lifelong Learning, Students.

same   In last week’s Los Angeles Times, faculty raised an alarm about educational technology. This time it was about classroom absenteeism. With so many lecture materials now online, including readings, notes, and even podcasts of the lectures, some faculty are noticing a sharp rise in absenteeism. Some universities are building in a standard lag time between lecture and publication of podcast to improve numbers of students in seats.

One teacher noted attendance in her classes dropped from about 65 percent to only about 35 percent. “Too much online instruction is a bad thing,” she said. There is a battle beginning to rage in higher education between proponents of “clicks and proponents of “bricks.? The divide was heralded years ago in marketing circles as more consumers shopped online and did not visit the physical store. “Bricks? instructors are trying different strategies from introducing pop quizzes to offering extra credit for attendance.

This complaint begs the question of whether it is important for students today to attend in person. If you are a student in the darkened corner of the lecture hall, will you really attend to the topic better than if you were carefully reading the materials in your dorm room? Are all professors that brilliant as orators? What do they offer in person that they do not offer online?

Of course, this discussion reminds me that professors are still struggling to figure out how to teach online. Posting materials is not how instructors should run online courses. You might as well post readings and assignments on your door for all the effective education that will provide. Instructors should be encouraged to become more “click? oriented. They should be using chat areas, discussion boards, video boards, student blogs, and all the other varied tools available to them.

Their online personae should evolve enormously to the point that it would not be inconceivable to leave their lecture hall persona in the dust. I am concerned that policy makers will somehow restrict the development of online teaching and enforce some arcane seat time rule.



1. Zs - January 25, 2006

I am so new in all this teaching and technology use in teaching I even don’t know if I could talk from a teacher standpoint.
Anyhow … I love technology and try to use it.

One question I had reading todays and yesterday’s posts here: really what do we do when unwanted postings come up in the air/screen. Myspace, is the space where everyone and everything can be heard. What then? In a book, or journal, or paper one would not have the courage or be allowed to publish those kind of things that go online.
I think sooner or later there will be some laws. Will they?
I learned from news about a teacher (dismissed) who gave as homework for students to research sexual related web sites.

And is exactly the way you say: people are afraid and would never let you read into their journal on paper, or read over their shoulders, but they post all of it and much more than they would ever consider writing in a paper journal they post it all online.

Just wanted to know your opinion on these.

2. mcvey - January 25, 2006

I am nervous about laws that curb free speech but there will likely come a time when somebody’s idea of free speech, in the form of a rude and disruptive commentary on a teacher, might have to be controlled. At least, the teacher might find ways of getting some sort of restriction on the student. Of course, it is so easy to be anonymous or to simply transfer the blog or web site to some other student or a third party. The problem, in these cases, is the anonymity combined with immaturity.
Students have always been sharing their comments about teachers behind their backs verbally. Now that their comments are going out to the world and access is easier, we have to re-think how we will react.

3. Tracy Arnold - February 1, 2006

As a student, I feel somewhat strongly about being forced to attend class. Of course you always hear students say “we pay your salary” which isn’t necessarily true, but I believe it should be up to students to a certain point on whether they need to come to class. I, for example, took 18 credit hours one semester. It was very hard for me to attend all of my classes, have time to do homework, go to work , and in the mean time get together for the “outside class group project” that most of the time we are forced to do with people we do not know. I know I almost burned out that semester so I started skipping some class to get things done. I never skipped on a day where we were going to do something other than listen to the teacher lecture for an hour and fifteen minute but it helped a lot. I also see why students need to come to class. Some people just aren’t motivated enough to make themselves go if they know they wont be penalized for it… but shouldn’t that be their problem???

4. Melissa Wilson - February 3, 2006

Over the past summer, I took two online classes. These classes were strictly online; no going to a classroom somewhere. One of the classes was a history class. Each chapter entailed reading the text, posting in reply to two questions on a discussion board, and completing a quiz. I loved taking the online class with only a few exceptions. One was the fact that I was not able to match any of the names in the discussion board with faces. I did not know anyone and there was no way to get to know them. Another problem I had with the class was that the teacher set the discussion board up weirdly for the way he was grading what was posted. He would post questions to answer and then grade on the content of the answer and if we discussed it with the other students. But luckily, most of the points came from the content. Other than that, I liked taking online classes. For students who cannot make the commitment to attend classes (students with full time jobs, etc.), I think online classes are a good way to further their education.

5. Meliz - February 5, 2006

I think that online courses are just as important as a course in a classroom, if not more important. I agree that online courses offer working individuals, parents, or both to further their education and that’s great. I would rather people skip class and earn their grade, whether good or bad, than come to class just to read the newspaper and disrupt those of us that are there to hear the lecture.

6. Jenni Puckett - February 28, 2006

I will start by saying that online tools are developing rather quickly in classrooms these days. From discussion boards, easy research, and much more outside information. However, I do not agree with having online courses. I, for one, know that I would not learn well with only online instruction. There are specific things that need to be shown in a hands-on right in front of me sort of way. I also know that when I have questions for a teacher, I enjoy having that face to face contact. I think that online is great but not the way to go with certain subjects.

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