Education is no different than anything else in life – some people are solitary, and some people are group oriented. In recreation, some people like to fish or golf (solitary athletics) and other in baseball or basketball (group athletics). Some employees prefer the cubicle and data entry, while others thrive in group projects or working with customers.
In school, the “lone wolf” likes to be given the task and the tools, and set to it. The group oriented student craves the class discussions, question-and-answer sessions with the instructor, and group study sessions. Every person learns in their own way. And in all honestly, the on-line education experience is mostly geared towards the lone wolf.
Speaking from personal experience, I loved it. I’m a lone wolf, and the on-line experience was exactly what I needed. In fact, I definitely would have never gotten my bachelor’s degree without distance learning. What I disliked about class was getting up early and driving across town, finding a parking space, making it to class on time, only to have a professor distribute a hand-out and then read it aloud to the class. Or give a Powerpoint presentation. I disliked having minutes of every class wasted by students who asked endless questions, often times just because they wanted the professor to know who they were. And then there were times the instructor didn’t show at all.
Granted, I’m a grouch, but for me distance ed solved all my problems and allowed me to focus on what was important – learning the material, passing the courses, and getting my degree. Throughout the process, I never once wished I had someone to study with.
However, I know that I’m not typical. And the typical person, even if they are a lone wolf by nature, is going to at some point want to discuss and go over the concepts and information they are learning in the class.
Since the class interaction is only through group posting boards and e-mails, this is troublesome for group-oriented learners. In her blog article The Disadvantages of Distance Education, writer Ashley Bensen cites the importance for some students of face-to-face interaction. Having zero face time with any faculty or fellow students can alienate some people.
One way around this potential stumbling block is made easy by technology. Just as we all connect to the education center via the computer, so we can connect to each other student-to-student. Shaking hands with another student may be impossible due to distance, but with a webcam (which comes standard with most all laptops and desktops these days) having facetime with a classmate can be done quickly, and often.
With sites like Skype and Oovoo, video calls can be made within the country for no cost. No credit card required, no invasive emails deluging your account. Just a simple set up, and then a student can video call any of their classmates they choose. These sites also offer group conference calling, so up to twelve people at once can share a call.
This allows for real-time study groups. From the comfort of their own home, people can exchange ideas, pose questions about the material, and prepare for tests.