Got Social?

Undergraduate Students and Technology – Part 5

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

I’ve decided to forgo the discussion about students and plagiarism; I’ll save that for another day, and go on with the discussion from the ECAR paper.

“The majority of comments, however, were negative. Four themes emerged – that the lack of face-to-face interaction detracts from learning, that online courses facilitate cheating, that technical problems still exist, and that online courses require students to “teach themselves”, making the course more demanding.

Ok – wow – where do I start with this.

1. Lack of face-to-face interaction detracts from learning
Ok, so I’m not sure I disagree with this, but probably NOT for the same reasons as the students. I do believe that it’s important to be face-to-face during a portion of the class. I hold with high regard whatever is happening, physically, when two or more people are in the same place at the same time. Call it vibes, call it aura, call it energy, call it whatever you want. However, this “thing” does not exist when people meet in cyberspace (or don’t meet at all, if the non-face-to-face portion is asynchronous.)
That’s my perspective, and I’d guess a small percentage of student think the same thing. But I’m willing to bet that there is more behind this for most students. We’ve seen that students are social and we’ve also seen that they don’t want their social networking tools to be taken over by the educational process. But it is that very social thing that students get from each other. They make friends, they develop relationships, they distract each other, they cover for each other, they do a lot of things that can’t be done when one is sitting on campus in his/her dorm and the other is at home in her/his bedroom, and one is at Starbucks.

2. That online courses facilitate cheating
Ok – so students are worried about cheating? LOL, no really? Students are worried about cheating? ROFLMAO!!!!! Oh, pull the other one! I’m not going to paint all students with the same brush, only MOST of them. I think the only reasons students are worried about cheating, most of them, is that they are afraid someone is going to get credit for cheating and a) they won’t be able to take advantage of it, b) they think it will make them look worse, of c) all of the above! There is this belief out there that classroom learning is a race, and that only so many people can get “good” grades, and if someone gets an A, and they cheated, then I might not get as good a grade because that other people took my A. I don’t buy the lion’s share of the bell curve of students care about cheating.

3. That technical problems still exist
This one still cracks me up, especially today. They have no problems teaching themselves how to use mobile devices, social networking spaces, and advanced video or computer games, but they think Blackboard is too hard to learn! I’ve actually had students tell me they couldn’t watch the YouTube video I assigned because it wouldn’t work on their computer

4. That online courses require students to “teach themselves” making the course more demanding.
To me, this translates to “Holy crap, look at all this work I have to do which I can’t fake now because I can’t sit in the back of the class an pretend that I read, answered, followed.” The use of technology actually makes the students do the amount of work they would have had to do had they participated in the class as it was designed. This is, of course, based on the idea that the course was designed properly. There is always the case that a technology is NOT being used properly and that, in fact, the class is harder then it would have been if it had been offered in person.
The other part of this is that students want us to give them the answers, because they believe learning is being able to tell us what we want them to tell us when we test them. We (and I mean society here) have these student so accustomed to the pitchers/vessels way of learning that if we are not giving them the answer, well, how are they going to know what to tell us back on the test. You want US to come up with the answer, they ask? Are you kidding, just tell me, so I can get a good grade on the test.

My goodness, there is so much more wrapped up in that. Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit that sometime, for now I’ll wrap up and move on in the next post.

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