By Erika Gill, Assistant Editor –
Jesse Gish has taken both online and traditional classroom courses at MCC, and says
each has its own merits, as well as negatives.
“Online classes take a tremendous amount of self motivation,” Gish said. “Deadlines can
be difficult to meet because the classes are so flexible.”
For some, traditional classes are the way to go because of the constant structure and
access to the professor. They say they are often more prone to falling behind when taking online
“The good thing about online classes is that you can do them whenever and wherever,”
At MCC, online classes have been available for about 10 years, although the number has
increased substantially in the past few years. This semester, there are more than 100 classes,
ranging from accounting to theater appreciation. Courses are offered by most departments, with
some such as business, English, and social sciences having multiple classes.
One of the biggest downsides to online classes, however, falls heavily on the lack of face-
to-face interaction with other classmates and the professor.
“Students benefit from the feedback from their fellow learners who become co-teachers
in the interactive classroom,” said Nicholas Budimir, who teaches several sociology classes. “I
personally enjoy being in traditional classrooms because I really like talking with students,
engaging with them on sociological topics, and learning from them.”
Gish agrees with this outlook, and admits he prefers traditional classes.
“The human contact with the instructor and other students is a much better learning
situation,” he said.
Some students find it stimulating to teach themselves, and can find it burdensome to have
to adapt to a pace to fit others’ learning needs. They would rather watch a lecture at their
convenience, online in the comfort of their own homes with no added background noise.
“The down side of these classes is the rigidity,” Gish said. Sometimes the group pace is
too slow and the class is boring, or it's too fast and I can't keep up.”
Another negative of traditional classes for some is the participation requirement. While
sharing opinions with others leads to the discovery of different perspectives and helps build
public speaking skills, it can be downright terrifying for some.
“A traditional classroom drawback is that not everyone can or does participate and some
are reticent or anxious and find participation difficult or even a distraction from the learning
process,” Budimir said. “In these cases online and private learning is more beneficial.”
However, as with any class or subject, every student is different, and there is no one-size
fits all for learning styles. For students who struggle with math, taking math online would
perhaps be academic suicide, but for the math whiz who catches on quickly, an online class
would be a good choice.
A word of advice to those who are planning on taking online classes is to stay organized
and maintain a healthy dose of self discipline.
“It essentially can come down to individual learning styles,” said Cliff Young, who
teaches English and communications classes. “If you lack attention to detail and are not
independent and highly organized, struggles are imminent.”
Despite myths that online classes are easier, the reality is that they probably are more
difficult, as well as requiring a significant time investment.
MCC’s Distance Learning/Online Education Web page lists several myths about online
They are easier. NOT TRUE. Online classes are demanding; they require that students be
active learners: seek answers to questions, be proactive, and manage self-discipline.
You spend less time. NOT TRUE. In many cases, students will spend more time as there
is a need to assimilate more information on an individual basis.
Due dates are anytime. NOT TRUE. Most online instructors have due dates. Grades are
often determined by due dates, and points are reduced for late assignments
All online classes follow the same structure and Blackboard menu. NOT TRUE. Every
instructor has a different agenda, a different teaching style, and a different “look” to the
There is no student-to- student interaction. MAY NOT BE TRUE. Many instructors
provide a discussion board where students actively participate on a regular basis.
Featured Image: Online classes or traditional classroom courses? Jesse Gish (left) has taken both, but says he prefers the interaction with professors and fellow students. At right is a traditional geology class with students working in groups. – Erika Gill photo.