Online courses are not working well at community colleges

As someone who is currently teaching an online community college class, I found this recent study interesting. I don’t have very much experience at this; in fact, it’s the first time I’ve taught undergraduate courses, the first time I’ve taught community college classes, and the first time I’ve taught a course that was completely online rather than having at least a little face-to-face time. Here are some of my observations so far.

  • Some students do a great job! They take the work seriously. They do assignments on time. They read directions and follow them (hurray!).
  • Some students do the minimum (or less) and test me to see how I’ll react.
  • Some students appear in name only.  They are on the roster but never check in, nor do they drop the course.  They’re just no shows. In my current class, I have four of these out of 32. Despite sending them several emails to ask what’s up, I’ve had no replies. (Guess I could try giving them a phone call, but have not gone there yet.)
  • Teaching online takes a LOT of time! Besides building the course, finding materials, creating assignments that I hope will be interesting and useful but also hold students accountable for what they’re supposed to be learning, there is all the time reviewing what they’ve done and giving individual feedback.
  • Some of the students who seem to have the most difficulty are those for whom English is a second language and whose English skills are not yet solid. I have to be very careful in how I write directions or give feedback. I can’t assume knowledge of idioms, for example, that I use without thinking. I tend to have a lot of assignments that ask students to respond in writing, and it sometimes takes a couple exchanges between us before I feel confident I’m correctly “interpreting” the student’s response.

So far, I’m enjoying teaching these courses and trying to find ways to overcome the obstacles of distance learning and take advantage of the strengths. I can easily see, however, that if I were trying to simultaneously teach three or four such classes, I might lose my enthusiasm quickly.

Five studies find online courses are not working well at community colleges – The Hechinger Report.

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