A Roadblock for Online STEM Classes?

In an article published today in The Chronicle of Higher Education, new research is discussed that shows students will be selective in the types of courses they choose to take online. According to a report on the study, students are more willing to take courses online whose content they feel “more comfortable teaching themselves”. Subjects widely mentioned that students found difficult to teach themselves were science and math classes.

However, there has been a lot of evidence that online learning is beneficial to students. The article cites a study by the US Department of Education conducted in 2010 that found that students actually did better in the online courses than in the face-to-face courses that were studied.

This creates a problem–students are steering clear of taking math and science classes online, but (of course, depending on the student, instructor, class, and many other factors) the courses could potentially benefit students and create a higher rate of student success. Some students may be missing out on an enriching class and possible higher grade and not even know it!

In order to get students interested and a little more comfortable with taking an online course in math or science, instructors may want to:

  • Prepare themselves and students–let students know exactly how the course is set up, what tools they should use, and provide outside resources.
  • Provide extra help when needed. Try conducting office hours from Skype or Google Hangouts.
  • Create a comfortable learning environment. Leave room to play and explore!
  • Take advantage of free online tools, like social media or blog hosting sites.

This way, hopefully everyone in the course can experience the benefits of online learning!