Posted by: crudbasher | June 14, 2010

Guest Post from Leah MacVie – Online Learning: A Great Choice

Today I am very pleased to have Leah MacVie contribute her thoughts to my blog! Thank you so much Leah!

Usually when I sit down in “my chair” to write a blog, I’m furious, overjoyed, or passionate about a particular educational choice that I’m blogging about. This time is little different. I’m going to focus on one of my biggest passions, but also something I rarely blog about: the choice of online learning.

Forget all that you’ve heard about the statistics, the comparisons, and the contrasts for a moment. I want to take a bit of your time to give you a first hand perspective of both sides of the coin. “How can you do this?” you say. Well, let’s start there.

I’ve taken online courses, hybrid courses, and blended courses in ANGEL and Blackboard, two of the most popular learning management systems. Currently, I’m an Instructional Designer that trains and supports faculty who are looking to move their courses online. Let’s begin.

What I am about to say may shock you, but I think Andy will agree:

Not all students can take online courses, not all teachers can teach online courses, and not all courses can be moved online. (I agree:Andy)

Like any technology implementation, online courses require training. Yes, it’s important to train everyone on how to use the system properly. It’s even more important to assure all parties understand what online learning or teaching really means:

  • you will be involved almost everyday of the week
  • you must make up a schedule for yourself
  • you must not fall behind

There should be procedures in place: a readiness Web site for students, and a training course for faculty.

Is It for Me?

Taking an online course takes a lot of time. You have to schedule your class time into your schedule, and you have to participate almost daily. However, for those that have a job or family, learning online can be a great way to get your degree. I loved being able to log on during lunch and get all my work completed.

There are Three Types of Interaction in an Online Course

  • Student to Content: Students should be engaging the content. This doesn’t mean reading boring text, it means researching on the Web, watching videos, hearing podcasts, or writing journal reflections.
  • Student to Instructor: The instructor should connect with students in a group and, most importantly, individually, when possible. There are plenty of free tools like Skype, WizIQ, and Google Talk to speak or chat for free with students.
  • Student to Student: Students can discuss topics with each other in a discussion forum. This may require a little training, and a little nudging when it comes to expectations. Also, constant feedback and communication is incredibly important: grading, e-mail, and announcements.

Note: Without these three types of interaction in an online course, the course is anything but an online course. It could be self-paced, it could be a cassette course, but it is NOT a quality online course.

Both students and instructors are responsible for their parts, facilitating and engaging. If you are taking an online course and don’t have interaction in all of these areas, I’m sorry about that. You are probably not going to get a whole lot out of this online course. If you are teaching an online course, let’s hope you have these three types in your course. If you don’t, your students are missing out on the complete experience.

As I mentioned, online learning isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great choice.

Leah MacVie blogs about educational choices at She loves contemplative comments from bloggers like Andy Barras and loves helping faculty that think online learning is an interesting choice.


Leah MacVie Photography | Leah MacVie | |




  1. […] original here:  Guest Post from Leah MacVie – Online Learning: A Great Choice … Comments [0]Digg […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leah MacVie, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: Gr8 guest post from @leahmacvie Online Learning: A Great Choice #edchat #edtech […]

  3. […] Photo by laffy4kMy good blogging buddy Andy Barras, from Educational Stormfront, and I are trading guest posts on online education this week. Although we do have our difference in opinions that sometimes make for interesting comments, we are both instructional designers with great perspectives. You can read my blog post this week on why Online Learning is a great choice here, at Educational Stormfront. […]

  4. Good points, Leah. I agree that not all courses could move online (it’s tough to imagine science labs performed on the screen having the same impact as live labs.)

    I also know people for whom online learning has not been successful.

    Still the prospect is intriguing and for the right student in the right program I am sure online programs are the best solution.

    • Hey hey, Tammi,
      Thanks for visiting to post.

      You know, there are so many factors with online ed. Did the students have a well developed course, did they have a savvy instructor, or were they just not able to get into the rhythm? When all the stars align, I think that online ed is a GREAT choice. But, in order for it to be successful, they do have to align….

  5. I just completed an online degree at Full Sail so I can speak to this a bit. (as I will on my guest post on Leah’s blog)

    One critical factor for successful online course is the teacher must use the correct methods. You can’t just take what you would do in the classroom and digitize it. Online is different. The nice thing about the program I took is the teachers got that.

  6. Hi,

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