Distance Learning vs. the Traditional Classroom
Non-traditional students are finding it easier and easier to maintain a job, a family, and pursuing a college career at the same time. This is possible because more and more non-traditional students are receiving an education using distance learning, as opposed to traditional, in-the-classroom teaching. Distance learning is basically taking college level, credit-bearing courses via the Internet. One of the most obvious advantages of distance learning is that it puts the classroom in your home, office, or wherever you can find a computer and log on to the Internet. However, there is much controversy regarding the quality of the courses being offered on the Internet versus the quality of courses taught in the traditional classroom.
The courses taught in the traditional classroom provide “important aspects of teacher immediacy, which are behaviors that enhance physical and psychological closeness (mehrabian, 1981)” with the student and the instructor. Verbal behaviors such as praising students, addressing them by name and using humor in the class may evoke immediacy. There is also non-verbal immediacy, which is body language such as adopting a relaxed body position, varying one’s vocal expression, moving around in the classroom and smiling while looking at the class (Richmond, Gorham & McCroskey, 1987). This type of behavior allows for a relationship between the student and the instructor to truly develop into something significant. It also allows for the student to develop his or her individuality in the classroom.
Traditional classroom teaching also provides students with the opportunity to have real social interaction with one another. This interaction in turn allows for the students to help one another in terms of academics or in terms of personal issues. Previous research has determined that the use of non-verbal and verbal behavior allow the student to become satisfied with the actual course and the Instructor. This is because the student is allowed to get a “feel” for the class.
Distance learning does not provide the advantage of building a strong academic or interpersonal relationship with your Instructor. It also does not allow you to express your individuality in the classroom. Distance learning is more of a multimedia-type learning than anything else. This is because distance learning is accomplished via the Internet. Receiving instruction via the Internet is analogous to receiving instruction to, say, a CD ROM.
Distance learning is not the best way to receive instruction. It could be that my bias is for traditional classroom learning because that is all that I have know all my life. I cannot fully comprehend how effective can learning over the Internet truly be. However, at the same time we have to focus on why some students decide that taking a web course is the best choice for them.
A non-traditional student, as defined by the Buffalo State College 1999-2000...