Contributor Charles Choi
As well as convenience, credit and cost, reputation can also influence a student’s choice of online science courses and programmes. Monica Mogilewsky particularly liked the University of London “because it had the oldest distance learning programme in the world, so they seemed like a good choice because I figured they had got the kinks worked out of distance learning. Also, I found out later that Nelson Mandela graduated from the University of London Distance Learning Programme, so I was in good company.”
“The reputation of the institution offering an online course is paramount,” says Chip Paucek, CEO of educational technology company 2U in New York. “It’s why students attend a school – it’s why we partner with top-tier colleges and universities to help create online degree programs for students. What’s important is getting a degree from a great school, regardless of whether you attended online or not.”
Instructors’ credentials are also an important factor. Lori Grant is currently at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, and is hoping to get a science masters via their online Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program. For Grant, an additional benefit of attending an online programme is that “I have been able to have instructors and leaders from many locations speak to our class since they are not required to be ‘on campus’. I have been blessed to have amazing leaders prepare me that otherwise would not have occurred.”
For Mogilewsky, instructors’ reputation was not a driving force in which courses she chose. “I didn’t know anything about the instructors,” she said. What was most important to her was the subject taught. “I didn’t have any interaction at all with an actual instructor,” Mogilewsky added. Each of her classes had a graduate student teaching assistant (TA), “and the TAs did a good job of moderating the chat sites, and quickly and thoroughly answering questions about course materials,” she said.
Mogilewsky said her lack of interaction with instructors on her online courses was no more of an issue than in a regular classroom. “Now that I’m at Portland State University, with 30,000 other students, I can see how in a traditional classroom setting, interactions with professors could be pretty limited as well,” Mogilewsky says. “My lack of interaction with instructors didn’t feel like a big deal at all.”
For some students, however, having interaction with supervisors and other students is critical to their education. The next piece in the series will explore Face Time with online education.