By Alexis Stenstrom, Madeline Groschen, Cecelia Calametti and Shyanna Ingberg
Online classes have become more popular with both Anoka-Ramsey students and teachers because of the demand to fit everyone’s busy schedules. Student/teacher communication has changed with the new Internet-based format, but it has not necessarily improved.
Students have different thoughts on obtaining answers to urgent questions with mainly, or only, e-mail to communicate.
Former Anoka-Ramsey Community College student Laura Sweeney had both positive and negative thoughts on communicating with professors through e-mail. She liked taking online classes because it fit into her work schedule, and she was able to contact her teacher through e-mail even at night instead of having to wait until the next class. She also said, “A con about online communication was that there was a possibility of forgetting to reply (through e-mail or D2L).”
Sweeney brought up how speaking in person and relating questions through e-mail are different. She said, “The hardest thing about communicating with my professor was trying to put my questions into words that she could understand. When you are in person you can sort of get a feel of what the person is saying, but over email you are just reading words so you don’t fully understand.”
ARCC Art Professor Marko Marian had some comments on communicating with online students and whether they keep up with all the material that is posted. He said, “I try to keep information to a bare minimum. . . if I put a paragraph that seems to be too much for a lot of people so I try to keep it really, really simple, really to the point.”
When asked about online student work ethic Marian said, “I’ll say work ethic is probably the same, it’s just you don’t have that ability to immediately intervene. Most of the time I don’t get a response back so that kind of makes me wonder whether the e-mails go into a black hole, or whether they read it and don’t care, or they read it and they don’t know what to say back. . .”
The content of the online courses can be difficult for some students. ARCC student Morgan Ege said that for one online class, she had to post five discussions a week and then respond back to five others, with a total of ten discussion posts a week. She also said that nothing about the class was easy for her, and she mostly struggled with the discussions.
Not all students experience complications with contacting their online professors. Sweeney said, “I think my professor made communication very easy. She had set up time when she was on campus if we ever needed to go in for office hours. She also always responded to e-mails within a day, so that was helpful as well.”
While e-mail is a frequent way to connect, current Cambridge student Lynnsey Renaud said that she also misses the face-to-face contact. She said, “. . . it (e-mail) takes your interpretation of the question completely out of it (context). Having the physical words, you can interpret the tone of their voice and how they mean it versus reading it and imagining how they are trying to say it to you.”
Both students and professors have various experiences through the online class format. Students like Renaud, Ege and Sweeney said they take online classes to fit their schedule. Professor Marian said he knows there is a demand for online classes, and that is why he pursues teaching them.
With final thoughts on teaching online, Marian said, “It really is different. There’s an initial fear of “I don’t know how this is going to work.” I’m enjoying it because it really kind of provides a different experience altogether. There’s a different mode of teaching, relaying information, engaging your students. I enjoy it, strangely enough. I don’t know how effective I am as an online instructor, you know, but like I said I understand that there is a need, a demand for it and it’s our job really to do what we can to address that demand.”