Point/Counterpoint: Online classes suck

Andrew Roland

Online classes at Washburn suck. I understand that some students think they are easier and that online classes save time, but the bottom line is this: taking a class online is a waste of time and money.

At Washburn University, online, undergraduate courses cost $53 more per credit hour than the same class taken traditionally, with the exception of business and nursing courses, which cost even more. That’s a premium of over $150 for a three-hour class. The administration justifies this with examples of the high demand for such classes. Free market economics at its best.

I understand that some people are willing to pay a premium for online classes, but I think the administration’s information is wrong. Many of us do not have a choice when we enroll in online classes.

I’ve taken several classes online in my four years at Washburn. However, I’ve taken only one of these willingly. In every other instance, a class required for my major was only offered online. I didn’t have a choice between courses taught in person or online-in my case, at least, I was coerced into taking an online course. Without freedom to choose between online or traditional courses, the administration’s “higher demand = higher prices” argument doesn’t work. In my case, the administration is screwing me out of money by forcing me to take online classes.

I would not be as upset about this if online classes could provide a higher quality education. I think something is lost when a student cannot engage in a real-time dialogue with an instructor. If I ask a question in class that is unclear, I have a chance to clarify myself. In an online course, my question could take several emails to resolve.

The problems don’t end here. Sadly, there are serious quality-control problems with Washburn’s online education options. I’ve taken a few truly awful online classes here. Some instructors don’t adapt their teaching to account for the weaknesses of online courses. Simply posting a copy of your overheads and assigning readings does not constitute “teaching.” In a traditional course, overheads and readings are supplemented with lecturing. Without some form of lecture online, students are receiving less than half of what a traditional class provides.

If I’m going to receive a half-rate educational experience online, I certainly don’t want to be paying an extra $150 to be wasting my efforts. I’m not learning anything other than the desperate need to never take another online class. Until Washburn does something to fix this situation, including substantive quality control, I urge all students to avoid online classes at all costs.