I have been a student at Penn State for three years, though the past two of them have been spent at World Campus. During this time, I have found many benefits to my courses and schoolwork being entirely online, such as having a more flexible schedule and being able to learn from home. However, the possible costs to these benefits haven’t really been noticeable until now, with the most apparent being this feeling of isolation. Classrooms with other students used to be where most of my social interactions really came from, and this setting was also an opportunity to discuss thoughts and understanding with peers. However, the bright screen and dull sound of typing left a sense of distance between me and the people I meant to interact with. I expressed this feeling in this week’s discussion, but I decided to also do further research to see if this effect exists in others, as well as any other possible negative effects to online learning.
The first bit of information I found was from an article written by Elizabeth Erichsen and Doris Bollinger. In the abstract, Erichsen and Bollinger discuss a study they conducted where they had international students take surveys, with some of them apparently then taking part in group sessions or interviews later. From this study, Erichsen and Bollinger mention how these students “both in traditional and online programs, experience/perceive high levels of isolation, academically and socially. However, online international students may feel even more isolated than their traditional counterparts.” Though any ways to correct this sense of social and academic isolation are not mentioned, the results from this article indicate the presence of a problem in online learning when it is compared to traditional learning.
My next source of information is an article from David Sapp and James Simon. Though there didn’t seem to be any mention of social isolation, they do compare the grades of students that were either being educated online or traditionally in writing courses. It is here that I saw a concept called the “’thrive or dive’ phenomenon”, explained by Sapp and Simon to be “the disproportionally high percentage of students who fail or do not complete online courses compared to conventional, face-to-face courses.” I believe this piece of data to be especially interesting because it once again compares online learning to traditional learning to find some difference between the two.
For the longest time, I simply tried to see only the positive aspects I had with online learning, as it allowed me to do my schoolwork from home as well as maintain a part time job in my county. However, the topic for this week first helped me notice and acknowledge this feeling of isolation I’ve had while working online, as well see through research any possible negative effects of online learning when compared with learning traditionally. My method of learning cannot change anytime soon, but the awareness of the effects discussed might help me try to dissipate, or even overcome, these obstacles.
Erichsen, E.A., Bolliger, D.U. Towards understanding international graduate student isolation in traditional and online environments. Education Tech Research Dev 59, 309–326 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-010-9161-6
Sapp, D. A., & Simon, J. (2005, October 6). Comparing grades in online and face-to-face writing courses: Interpersonal accountability and institutional commitment. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8755461505000629