March 21, 2014
Even though students have done their research and decided that online classes are the best option for them, they still have tons of misconceptions about course expectations and requirements. We tracked down the most common myths students believe, and asked our mentors (yes, those mentors, the ones assessing your grades) to officially bust them, once and for all. Let the debunking begin…
Myth #1: Because it’s an online course, I don’t really have to spend that much time on it.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Sandra Harris, School of Business and Management
“Start with one course to acclimate to the online environment. It is necessary to get into the “classroom” several times a week. Be prepared to spend four to six hours per week on the course.”
Myth #2: It isn’t necessary to schedule or set aside blocks of “class time.”
BUSTED BY: Nora Carrol, School of Business and Management
“Online learning does not lessen responsibility; on the contrary, it can require more time and better time management than face-to-face learning. Expect to do a fair amount of peripheral research using virtual libraries and other online tools. A challenge too is timing, as physical classmates are together, but virtual classmates may be scattered worldwide, all juggling multiple activities in different time zones.”
Myth #3: My mentor is my teacher and should tell me what to do.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Mark Kassop, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“I love the adage that an online mentor is the “guide on the side,” rather than the “sage on the stage.” The role of a mentor is to assist students in the process of learning a body of knowledge. It is not the mentor’s responsibility to spoon feed adult learners that knowledge; having mature, self-motivated students helps a mentor to successfully be that guide on the side. I am still responsible for the subject matter, but I can now use it in a different way than I did when I was expected to be the “sage.” I can guide students to useful information, and I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.”
Myth #4: I only have to put effort into my papers and exams; what I write on the discussion board doesn’t matter.
BUSTED BY: Jordan Goldberg, School of Applied Science & Technology
“[The Discussion Board] is what makes the online dialogue so interesting. Students respond to the topics in the course from various perspectives. I keep an eye on the introductions students post at the beginning of every term to determine how best to tailor my instructional methods to their needs… It is more conducive to learning to interact with other students in an online medium. You are not only learning the subject, but developing stronger written and communication skills that are vital in industry today.”
Myth #5: There’s nothing my classmates can teach me.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Gloria Frederick, John S. Watson School of Public Policy and Continuing Studies
“Many adult learners are already active citizens who bring practical experience to the theory and foundation of community development… by its very nature, the online learning platform and related discussion boards provoke collaboration among students seeking to share their professional views and examine the solutions they might have at their disposal.”
AND BUSTED BY: Robert Saldarini, School of Business and Management
“The wonderful variety of backgrounds, life and professional experiences of our students bring textbook assignments to life; the most influential examples come from our own students.”
Myth #6: I’m just a name on the computer screen so the mentor will never notice if I don’t participate.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Amy Hannon, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“Online courses demand far more direct involvement of a student who is typically submitting six written assignments per term in addition to taking exams. This requires an active mentor involvement in critiquing their writing, which results in exchanges that often surpass the interaction found in a classroom-based course. All the while, there is the obligatory flow of discussion board postings. In our online courses, no one can opt to sit in the back row and sleep.”
Myth #7: Online discussion boards don’t allow for the same participation that a traditional classroom discussion can offer.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Khaled M. Abdel Ghany, School of Business and Management
“Online classes allow many students to express themselves more freely and to ask more questions than the students in the classroom, who are sometimes shy to speak up in front of everyone.”
AND BUSTED BY: Dr. Robert Price, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“Online classes have many advantages that face-to-face classes do not. An online discussion gives everyone time to think about their responses and everyone gets “heard”.”
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November 20, 2012
Dr. Mark Kassop, mentor at Thomas Edison State College
By Dr. Mark Kassop
Mentor, Thomas Edison State College
I have been a mentor at Thomas Edison State College for more than 25 years for several reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy the adult, self-motivated students who populate Thomas Edison State College courses. They are a pleasure to work with and their diverse backgrounds lead to fascinating assignments and discussion postings.
Connecting with students in an online environment is about creating a positive impact on the student and on the student’s classmates. Mentoring courses on the sociology of the family, as I do, my Thomas Edison State College students have been in all stages of dating, marriage, divorce, remarriage, etc., and their experiences enrich the classes that I mentor. I have learned a lot from my students and, hopefully, they have learned a lot of useful material from me, too!
There are significant differences between face-to-face (f2f) students and online students. One could argue that a student loses something by not having face-to-face contact with their mentor. However, I can honestly say that I know my online students better than I know my f2f students and they might often say the same thing in reverse.
When I was president of the New Jersey Virtual Community College Consortium, I gave frequent lectures around the country about the virtues of online learning. One of the differences that I would focus on is the oxymoron, “anonymous intimacy.” Most of us have had the experience of sitting on an airplane next to an absolute stranger who pours out their life history to us, because they know they will never see us again and their story is safe. Similarly, online students open up to their mentors via e-mail and in online discussions in ways that they are not likely to do in a traditional face-to-face classroom.
Furthermore, students do the same in online discussions. Since they do not know their classmates on a face-to-face basis, they are not as inhibited as they might be in a classroom. They feel as though they can express their point of view in the online discussions and politely disagree with their classmates on controversial topics. The online discussions give them the chance to bond and expand their viewpoints based on feedback from their classmates and mentor.
In addition, online students learn skills that f2f classes don’t usually teach. They learn to collaborate with their classmates in online discussions and projects. They develop lifelong learning skills that prepare them for their careers in ways that they had not suspected. They learn computer skills and online searching skills, including the ability to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources; that will benefit them in many careers.
The main role of an online mentor is to assist students in the process of learning a body of knowledge. I love the saying that online mentors are the “guide on the side,” rather than the “sage on the stage.” It is not the responsibility to spoon feed students that knowledge. Having mature, self-motivated students helps a mentor to successfully be that “guide on the side.” I still need to know the same body of material, but I can now use it in a different way than I did when I was expected to be the “sage.” I can guide students to useful information. I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.
When I first started mentoring online in 1998, I knew that there were some advantages in an online course space, but I didn’t think about the ability for my personality to travel across cyberspace.
However, in numerous student evaluations over the last 14 years, I have had students comment on my sense of humor, my dedication and hard work, my caring personality, and my availability. In turn, I have learned many things about my online student’s personalities – their dedication, their work ethic, their family lives, their goals, their joys and their concerns. We often talk in academia about civil behavior and some professors and administrators complain about the lack of civility among students. Strangely (maybe), online students tend to be much more civil than f2f students. Online students are more likely to send their regards, wish you a nice day, hope that you are feeling better, suggest that you be careful, etc., than f2f students usually are.
I have lots of wonderful stories about students that I could share from my many years of online mentoring experiences, but my favorite is a female student I mentored about 15 years ago.
The student worked as a midwife in Eastern Pennsylvania. Specifically, she helped Amish and Mennonite women deliver their children. On several occasions she would go out in the evening to deliver a child and get home in the middle of the night or very early morning. Her adrenalin was flowing and she would sit down and write me an e-mail and submit an assignment. Her e-mails were filled with the beauty of the delivery and the children who were on the bed with mom or helping my student with the preparations. She would tell about the joy and assistance provided by the father and describe the new baby that she helped to bring into the world. She would share this beautiful experience and finish off her e-mail by noting that she just had to write her assignment since she was wide-awake and so excited.
There are lots of students who I have had in my classes who needed the flexible schedule that Thomas Edison State College has offered throughout its existence. These students have all had an opportunity to complete degrees and excel and share their excitement as part of our online communities.
Featuring stories and information about Thomas Edison State College and going back to college as a busy adult.