Students and teachers need to adapt to online classrooms


Technology affects everything.

It helps us communicate, travel, cook, clean, and shop more efficiently. In education, the emergence of online classes has introduced a plethora of opportunities to prospective students.

With all the advantages technology brings, it’s no surprise our teaching system has shifted to include online learning options. That means students face the choice of whether online learning fits their needs.

There are positive aspects of taking an online course. It can work well for people who may not be able to attend in-class lessons, whether they are too far away, have full-time jobs or children at home. It also allows students to enroll in classes at institutions outside their province.

While some may think taking a course without having to attend class is easy, some students find the opposite is true.

Krystal Des Vignes, a second-year Broadcast Journalism student at Sheridan, decided to take an online course during the summer because she was working full-time.

“I thought it would be more convenient than going into a classroom,” says the 30-year-old. But it wasn’t that simple.

“You have a choice to just do nothing. The motivation isn’t there,” she said. “I have a really short attention span. I have to have something physically in front of me to pay attention.”

Though she did well in the course, she isn’t sure if she would do it again, adding that having the choice to do an online course is still beneficial.

She has tips for anyone completing an online course now. “Set a designated day to go online and do your stuff,” says Des Vignes. “You tend to procrastinate because you can do it whenever you want.”

However, there are still those with positive experiences, such as people who would have otherwise been unable to complete their post-secondary degree.

Lena Patterson, operations manager for eCampusOntario, an online platform that provides one-window access to Ontario’s online courses, emphasizes the benefits of online learning.

“I’ve seen in many instances that this is the only option that some audiences have. There are areas that people don’t have access to post-secondary education and don’t have the choice to go somewhere with access,” Patterson said.


The transition to online learning is not only difficult for students. Another factor, and one that people may tend to overlook, is the challenge teachers face. Professors, many of whom have been teaching in a regular classroom environment for years, have to learn a completely new method of teaching.

Michael Evans, associate dean of Digital Learning and Innovation at Sheridan, pointed out that a large part of the success of an online course is how the teacher presents the course.

“Good teachers will develop teaching strategies based on their students, content and learning outcomes. The same things really apply online if you’re going to do it well,” said Evans.

“A lot of students just start into an online course and may have the experience of feeling distant from other students and the professor, and a lot of that has to be compensated for.”

Evans also highlighted the importance of the student-teacher relationship, and believes technology can actually enhance that relationship.

“Technology is neutral until it’s manipulated. It can be done well and it can be done badly, and it can be done in a learning context.”

There are also a number of workshops that professors can take in to enhance their online teaching experience.

Overall, Evans believes that “If it’s done well, it might work.”

Sheridan professor Tess Van Groll took one of the teaching workshops and is currently leading a hybrid class, a mix of both online and classroom. She acknowledges the adjustments required between regular and online teaching.

“You have to change the way you teach. You can’t replicate what you do face to face. You have to look at the information and figure out how you’re going to deliver it in a different way,” she said.

“You want to have a variety of projects and techniques because there are many, many different learning styles.”

Van Groll admits there are negative aspects to online teaching. “I still like to see people’s faces,” she said.

She also has advice for students who wish to succeed.

“Be consistent and set aside time every week that you’re going to feel you’re in a classroom, wherever you are.”

What do you think about online courses?

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