July 12, 2013

9 Reasons For Online Training and 5 Against

online classesA few weeks ago, I polled you-all about your interest in online training. The results were mixed. Setting aside the obvious reason that online classes are much more affordable for both offeror and offeree, here are some of the comments I got (I’ve summarized):


  • students can attend class from a car, their home, a library, while they’re waiting for their sister to finish ballet.
  • classes are flexible–adaptable to student schedules
  • online classes allow non-verbal students to participate fully with writing, drawing, and other non-audio approaches. This is a huge plus if the student is shy, easily intimidated and/or distracted by others
  • class members in online classes are highly diversified, offering an opportunity for students to learn about different cultures, attitudes, and approaches to learning
  • classes are self-paced–students move exactly as quickly or slowly as they want (with the fast forward and rewind)
  • no distractions–students sit down and go to work without the chatter that usually starts a class, the goofing off that often distracts a lesson, and then interference from other students who don’t or won’t get whatever is included in the lesson
  • no commuting, which means no traffic jams, no school house parking lots, less money spent on cars/gas/maintenance
  • prepares students for future education in high schools and colleges
  • content is managed through the online course framework, which means students can go back to review


  • can’t adapt class to student pace of learning–i.e., if class requires more clarification to get a point, the online teacher doesn’t know that. Normally, a teacher will restate, answer clarifying questions, but in online classes, the only option is for the student to pause and replay the section
  • can’t differentiate for variety of class learners
  • no socialization learning available–a critical piece of functioning in college and career
  • a real strength of teaching is the bonding with the teacher. That’s why some teachers are so much better than others, even if they teach the same curriculum. An online course loses that charisma
  • students must have ‘good’ computers, internet, and technology in general. And, when something goes wrong with the technology, the class stops until glitches are fixed. that can be a real time-management problem if homework is due or classmates had planned to meet online to work on a project

It should be noted that a lot of these problems are solved with a real-time approach like Google Hangouts, where students and teachers are there at the same time, in the same virtual classroom. Then students can share their screens, get help immediately, ask clarifying questions. In the case of GHO, these can be taped directly to YouTube and a private class channel, so anyone not available during the live session can still participate in the class by watching the video.

A note: My thanks to Justin Baeder over at the Principal Center for his help with GHO.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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