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Let's listen to Students' Voice
by C. Geovana Lopez, Kristy McFarland
Students at UMUC, Distance Education
Geovana says:

What makes a good DE professor?

Someone that actually participates in the course. By this I mean someone who not only assigns the work but also gives you feedback, gives you "class notes" that explain the material, and who is glad to answer questions no matter how simple they may be. A key to Distance Education is answering any questions promptly; I actually had a Professor who answered a question on an assignment AFTER it was due, later the same Professor answered a question I had on the final exam, and this is No lie, MONTHS later. When I received the email, I was shocked. 

A key to a student success in any course is the teacher. I have found that I always get lower grades when teacher is not involved in the course and treats the course as "independent learning" not as "distance education". 

Overall, I've been fortunate mostly all of my DE professors have been excellent; they all had the characteristics I mentioned above:

  • Gives appropriate feedback
  • Explains the material
  • Guides the students
  • Answer questions promptly
  • Is involved in the course 
  • Is interested in the success of their students.
What makes a good DE student?

I am a good student as of last semester I had a 3.41 GPA, so the following is a personal reflection of things I do to ensure my success:

  • Read, Read, Read. A lot of time DE students have limited time on their hands, so it is easy to skip the reading, but this is crucial to anyone success as a student.
  • Do not procrastinate; it is a DE student worst enemy.
  • Attempt to get ahead of your courses.
  • Ask if you do not know
  • Be an active participant
  • Be self motivated
  • Although DE courses are modeled as a classroom course, you must be able and willing to learn a lot on your own, and work on your own. This one might sound unreasonable but it is the key to anything you do in life, enjoy the course, enjoy what you are learning, have a passion for it, this will practically guarantee your success.
Kristy says:

My name is Kristy McFarland, I live in the US, in a very rural area of Colorado. There is a small college in my town; the next closest is 4 hours away. Many people living in the rural west have limited options for getting an education. The small local college provides very few degrees, and they are general in nature.

Myself, I wanted a degree in Computer Information Science and Management; neither degree is offered by this college. This is one positive aspect about e-learning. One can receive a quality and complete education, living anywhere. All one needs is a modem and a computer.

Another positive aspect of e-learning for me is the flexibility. I am a single mother of two young children, and I have no option other than to work full-time. Even if I lived near a comprehensive University, I would not be able to attend classes full-time while working full-time, too. With e-learning, I can study in the evenings or early mornings (and all weekend, of course!). Each day I can adjust to my work and children's schedules. This flexibility of schedule alone has made it possible to finish my education; I would not have done it otherwise.

Yet another positive aspect is the quality of education. All my courses have been via the University of Maryland, and with only one exception, the courses have been outstanding. I know that I am receiving a premier education. As with any course, the degree of interest in a course is proportional to not only the subject, but also to the professor(s) teaching. I think that on-line professors probably have to reach out to the students more than in a regular classroom setting, and some professors don't make much of an effort. On the other hand, many do, and some (such as Carmen Holotescu and Ioan Jurca) are exceptional.

One disadvantage to e-learning that I have observed are when the students don't make enough of an effort. E-learning takes a considerable amount of motivation and diligence. One must make an extra effort to stay current with assignments, and to ask questions when they don't understand something. Not having the personalization of a face-to-face interaction often decreases the personal connection, so both student and professor must make an extra effort to connect.

Another disadvantage is when the professors either make no effort to help the students, are disinterested in the course or the success of the students, or have a poor attitude. I have encountered all of these, but because I am an older student, can take these issues more in stride. However, for the younger student who views the professor as an authority figure (i.e not to be challenged); these students have a very difficult time with these professors. Several have dropped out of the e-learning curriculum after such an experience.

The drawbacks to e-learning for me, are two-fold. First, the cost is very expensive. I am hoping that I will be able to pay off my student loans with the new job I will undoubtedly be getting soon! And secondly, some courses lend themselves better to face-to-face instruction. While having exceptional instructors lessens this need, not all of the more difficult courses have the same caliber professors. This results in the student learning primarily by reading their textbook.

In conclusion, e-learning is a fabulous opportunity. I highly recommend the option to everyone who has the motivation to apply themselves. The degree of success enjoyed by any e-learning institution is directly related to the quality of the professor and the relevancy of the courses offered.

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