A Case For Dynamic Learning: How Both Traditional and Online Classes are Necessary at UCI

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onlineEach year, thousands of high school seniors eagerly apply to the UC system, with the number of applicants steadily increasing every year. UCI alone received nearly 98,000 applications for the 2016-2017 academic year. According to the UC system’s agreement to enroll an additional 5,000 students, the UCI admissions team will be accepting 650 more students than in previous years.

Although this increase in the student body can be seen as celebratory in that more people are going to college, it also begs speculation into how the university will accommodate this growth in acceptances.

Some UC campuses, seeing the expansion in student recruitment as added expenses for the school, are considering the creation of extensive online classes to decrease annual costs. Online courses offer substantial advantages over physical classrooms, such as the ability to place a single professor in charge of double the size of that of a normal lecture. This allows the school to counteract additional expenses by decreasing the number of faculty members on campus to only a select few who have the most experience. Likewise, students can avoid intense competition for classes during registration periods because the number of available seats increases.

However, Vice Chancellor Parham has spoken against this policy.

“Because UCI is such a diverse campus, with 50 percent of the population being made up on first generation college students, it is of the utmost importance for the university to promote relationship building and social interactions between faculty and students. Online classes create a detached feeling from the school and, although [they] provide a sound learning experience, [they] cannot supplement a physical classroom’s stimulating discussions,” he argued.  

Yet, online classes should not be totally discredited. It is difficult to state that one method of teaching is superior to the other. UCI should not follow a singlestrategy to accommodate the massive influx of freshman and transfer students.

At the heart of UCI’s values are excellence, affordability and accessibility. To benefit current and future generations, it is imperative that a growing campus utilizes a comprehensive approach to provide students with several opportunities for growth and academic achievement. An increase in online and in-person lectures and classes is needed in order to effectively meet the needs of UCI’s growing student body.

While taking an online class is indeed a different experience than taking one in a physical lecture hall, it has several advantages, especially for current UCI students.

As a commuter, I prefer online classes to a physical classroom. I appreciate an online course’s ability to limit the number of days required to commute. In addition, classroom lectures tend to rush through information, giving students limited opportunities to ask questions. With recorded lectures, students can pause, replay, or skip lessons when reviewing for exams without surrounding classmates serving as distractions.

These classes have been proven to be effective as well. According to a 2014 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers found that there was a greater amount of learning in an online physics class than in its standard lecture-based counterpart. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that students showed the same level of increase regardless of background. In other words, the amount of improvement was the same, regardless of how well the online students performed on a pre-test before taking the class.

Therefore, it is necessary for UCI to have an integrated approach in accommodating its students. Classes should be available in physical and online form to allow students to select the option that best suits their learning preferences.

In the long-run, UCI’s 1,474 acre campus is able to handle a growing population and the construction of additional facilities can only be welcomed upon completion. In the short run, such endeavors may hinder students’ performance, due to the high levels of noise and the difficulty of navigating through construction sites to class.

However the funds — provided through bonds,philanthropy and UC applications — will be allocated during the next few years will vary to the level of need in each department. It could prove beneficial to create additional online courses to allow incoming students more time to explore UCI, enroll in some of the hundreds of organizations and clubs on campus and attend events that promote Anteater pride. Over the course of the next five years or so, UCI should monitor the trend of acceptances to determine where, more or less, financial assistance should be provided to prevent unnecessary costs that could fall upon students.

Both online and in-class learning are critical components to creating a well-rounded college experience.The utilization of one over the other could prove harmful to students’ development into future leaders and intellectuals. Only by adopting multiple strategies of learning can UCI students thrive.

 

Lilith Martirosyan is a first-year business administration major. She can be reached at llmartir@uci.edu.

 

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