College education goes online

Michelle Chan

For better or for worse, the classroom is moving into the final frontier.

The Internet revolutionizes the way we process and search for information. It serves as a personal informant and in some ways as a private teacher. With a wealth of knowledge within our reach, many professors are beginning to seek out the Internet as a means to streamline the classroom experience.

While the Web serves as an excellent tool to distribute the gift of knowledge, teachers should reconsider its use in the classroom before committing a portion of the curriculum to it. Online homework provides many benefits to students, but its function at times can hinder rather than provide a boon.

The manual way of grading pencil-and-paper homework can often be a daunting task for professors and particularly their teaching assistants, especially when grading hundreds of papers.

Online homework does provide instantaneous feedback to the students and makes grading considerably easier for the professor, but it’s a flawed system.

Not only do online homework systems slap students with another steep and mandatory fee, they don’t necessarily improve the students’ performance.

Those who do homework online exhibit only minimal difference in exam scores when compared to students who do their homework by paper and pencil, according to a master’s thesis researched by a graduate student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Nearly 90 percent of second semester chemistry students at a postsecondary institution reported using online homework, according to a study found in the Journal of College Science Teaching.

Students may complete their homework, but this does not necessarily indicate whether or not they have learned the material.

It’s no secret that using online systems may enable students to cheat or to search for answers in an unauthorized manner. Professors have no way of fully verifying whether or not a student completed his or her own work through honest means. In attempt to finish work quickly, students may seek aid from other students in a way that does not enhance the learning process.

Students’ attitudes toward online homework are lukewarm. According to a study published by the College of Business Administration at Belmont University, 68 percent of undergraduate MBA students reported that online homework was only somewhat helpful.

Software limitations in many online systems may frustrate hardworking students. For example, in homework programs designed for many math and science majors, significant figures and rounded numbers may cause a correct answer to be processed as incorrect. Although a student may understand the particular topic, the computer will wrongfully detract from an individual’s score.

Typically, if online homework provides little to no benefit, not many students will wish to invest their time into a homework system that does little for them in terms of academic mastery.

Online homework systems can often provide a beneficial supplement to a curriculum. However teachers should look for better or more creative means of engaging students in the academic material outside of the classroom, and students should learn to immerse themselves more fully in their intellectual pursuits.

Effort on both ends is needed in order to produce a generation of well-educated individuals.


-Michelle Chan is a sophomore animal science major from Phoenix, AZ. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.