E-Learning at Douglas College
By Chitwan Khosla, Features Editor
Me: “Why are you taking your laptop with you in the bathroom?”
Friend: “My class is beginning in a minute. I need to connect to my course. Unfortunately, I can’t ignore nature’s call.”
Me: “I don’t understand what are you saying?”
Friend: “Girl! I got my online class starting in few seconds and I will come and tell you later after I return from the bathroom.”
This conversation between my friend and I almost two years ago kindled a curiosity in me about online learning. I wanted to know more when I heard about a virtual classroom where I could attend lectures while sipping coffee from my comfy couch.
I looked for the courses that I needed for my program that were available online at Douglas College. I found one being offered in a hybrid setting and I gave it a try. We met every Tuesday for three hours, and our professor posted an hour-or-so-long video every week following a task or assignment. Everything seemed interesting and easy in the first week, but soon I realized that the course demanded more than what I had anticipated. We were going through the material at a fast pace, and it involved a lot of self-study. It had more homework than my other courses and I always needed a phone reminder to keep up with the deadlines. I cleared the course with a pretty fair grade but I believe I could have done better if I had evaluated the pros and cons of a hybrid class before taking the course.
When I later discussed my experience with my friends, I realized most of them didn’t have a clue that there were such courses available at Douglas College. Though recently many students have become more aware of these courses, they still feel apprehensive.
As per the information on the college website, Douglas College offers three different approaches with e-learning: online, hybrid, and enhanced. Almost every course at Douglas College uses enhanced learning, where we (faculty and students) use platforms such as “MyDouglas” or “My Blackboard Community” to assist the learning process by making course material and teacher-student interaction easier and more accessible. Hybrid courses use a setting in which most of the material or other learning tasks are available online. They’re a mixture of traditional classroom and virtual classroom setting. The teacher and students meet once a week or sometimes only few times during the course. Online courses offer the entire course in a virtual classroom setting and students come to the college only for examination purposes. The students get everything they need to learn from just clicking.
The Centre for Educational and Information Technology’s 2013/14 fiscal year shows that 2,045 students enrolled for 223 online courses and 1,427 students enrolled for 57 hybrid courses. This winter semester there are at least 44 online courses being taught which are mostly full. Online courses for classes like PSYC 1200, MARK 1120, ENG 1102 and CRIM 1150 are highly popular; they are either almost full or with many students listed on the wait-list as of January 23. Hybrid courses like ENG 1130, CMNS 1125, DACS 3430, and BUSN 1210 have high enrolment this semester. This suggests that many students are showing interest in such courses which offer them flexibility and convenience.
Online and hybrid courses must be chosen wisely. Even though you get to cut travel time and the cost of commuting to school, along with adding the convenience of going through the recorded lectures multiple times anytime and anywhere, you need to be self-motivated and more responsibly involved in the learning process in order to make the courses work. If you are not so enthusiastic about self-study, you should stick to traditional classes or you are likely to lose track of things and perform poorly.
Dr. Brenna Clarke Gray, an English Department faculty member at Douglas College, has been teaching in the hybrid setting for about four years now. She says that when she started teaching hybrid courses, it was more likely for students to wander into her hybrid classes without really understanding what they should expect from the course and themselves; now more students are becoming aware as hybrid courses are getting increasingly commonplace.
Dr. Clarke Gray said that these courses are not for everyone, but work well for self-directed and engaged students. She added that it is the college’s job to offer delivery modes that tap into different learning preferences.
When asked if she thought that the college website could elaborate and highlight the expectations of such courses more effectively, she replied, “I think we can all do a better job of communicating expectations to students. I’d like to see a greater awareness of delivery options across the college, including the website. But also through advising, and in the registration process.”
As a teacher, she likes teaching a blended course as it has its own challenges and benefits. She loves diversity at Douglas and gets to reach students from different walks of life. Ending the conversation with a note of suggestion for students, Dr. Clarke Gray said, “As with any learning choice, making the right one depends on knowing yourself and being honest about your strengths and weaknesses. In hybrid (or online), the instructor is a resource for your self-guided learning a lot of the time. Make use of him/her and go to office hours!”