Know the differences between in-person college courses, Ecampus options

Jackie Keating, forum contributor

With online classes more common than ever before, many of you may be mulling over the possibility of switching that 8 a.m. on-campus class for the online version.

I am currently taking both forms of classes, and there are definitely pros and cons of each.

First, I’ll start with the online class: It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s exciting. The most obvious upside to my Ecampus class is the flexibility it offers. I can sit down and do the work whenever it is most convenient to me, and therefore work it into my schedule instead of building my schedule around it. It’s especially nice this term since the sun is out and I can “be in class” at the Memorial Union Quad, for example. This would be an especially good option for those who are working multiple jobs, or who have tight schedules for any reason.

I also like the fact that my online class offers the opportunity to meet people from all over the country, whereas the overwhelming majority of people in my on-campus classes are from Oregon. I have a girl in my Ecampus class from Texas, a boy from San Diego and another from Georgia, for instance. We’ve introduced each other on Canvas’ discussion forums, and it’s fun to think that each of us is interacting from totally different settings.

Lastly, the Ecampus course I’m taking allows me to interact with the professor one-on-one, since we are required to Skype her a couple of times during the term to check in with how the course is going. Since many people don’t end up going to office hours on campus, I think the required check-ins would probably be beneficial.

However, there are certainly things that a regular, sit down class on campus offers that my online class can’t. One is the ease with which one can ask a clarifying question in a regular class and get an immediate answer. If I’m having a hard time on an assignment in my Ecampus class, I have to email the professor and hope for a quick reply, or turn to one of my E-classmates.

Which, of course, leads to the next issue, which is the lack of physical, human interaction that occurs in the online edition of my course. There’s something comforting about sitting in the same seat with the same people around you in a scheduled on-campus class. There might be a class clown who makes the course entertaining, or a friend you like to study for tests with. Although the students in my online class seem very friendly and helpful, the fact that we can’t actually see each other gives a disconnect that’s all too apparent and a bit disconcerting.

Lastly, the online classes can be risky if you—like me—are a procrastinator. For my particular class, nothing is due until the end of the week, which makes it very tempting not to crack open my textbook until everything is actually due, thus sending me into a panicky tornado on Fridays. If you’re a disciplined individual who can commit to doing work every day without prompting or supervision, Ecampus might be a good option for you. Otherwise, you may want to stick it out in your on-campus class.

All in all, I’d say that I prefer the more friendly and human setting offered by regular classes. There are more opportunities to ask questions as well as to talk to classmates in person and be held accountable to show up and learn. However, I’m not going to totally disregard online classes, because I think they could prove really helpful, especially in the summer when I won’t be in Corvallis.

I encourage students to keep their options open, but Ecampus may not be for everyone.

The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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