By: Elizabeth Ivanecky

Online education not only has a future at McMaster; it is a necessary innovation that will enhance the quality and character of education at McMaster.

Not only will students benefit from the experience, but there is a unique potential for instructors to revisit their own understandings of education.

There has been an expansion of online academic instruction. For example, Queen’s University offers 120 fully online courses during the academic school year.

McMaster has its work cut out for it in terms of building upon the good foundation of its Centre for Continuing Education.

The latest pathway, My OWN McMaster—a degree option in which students obtain a diploma and Bachelors of Arts degree in History—Mac’s CCE is offering for distance learners this upcoming year serves as a good model of the risk-taking character Mac needs to adopt in order to stay current in this ever updating technological world.

A simple scan through the list of programs that students have the option of completing through Mac’s CCE will show that there is little representation of humanities disciplines: In other words, online education at McMaster in the field of the humanities requires serious rethinking.

Which is why My OWN Mac will improve the quality of online education offered at McMaster.

To increase the representation of humanities fields in online education—arguably one of the most difficult of disciplines to make this shift due to their subjective nature—means that instructors and students alike in the humanities disciplines will re-examine the ways their knowledge can be used through various mediums.

Instructors of online courses must reflect on the presentation of the knowledge to their students as the online medium curbs the use of body language to impart knowledge.

Dr. Michael Egan, Associate Professor of History at McMaster claims that it has been an interesting challenge for him as an instructor to make the transition of his live course History 2EE3 since lacking the communication of body language means being more succinct in delivery to avoid confusion amongst students.

Instructors then have the opportunity to perfect their dialogue between them and their students.

Students today find themselves in a complex juggling act in which they must balance their commitments to their education amidst their commitments to their families, landowners, and of course attempt to maintain some vestige of a social life (if that’s really possible).

It cannot be ignored that the freedom to determine our own scheduling of courses online is appealing to many, and a necessity for those with particular interests in a given topic.

More frequent than a traditional course taught in a classroom, online courses attract a plethora of students from a variety of disciplines and bring them together into one common environment according to Dr. Pamela Swett, Professor and Chair of the Department of History.

This kind of multi-disciplinary meeting place provides ripe conditions for the spread of interdisciplinary collaboration which breeds new ideas and ways of relating to one another.

And finally, taking an online course can help us students at Mac learn more about ourselves as young adults.

When I took my French courses online through Athabasca, the experience taught me the important responsibility of scheduling time for reviewing key grammar points and making my own deadlines to meet in order to complete the course on time before the school year started at McMaster.

Taking an online course can teach us to be more disciplined and efficient in the on-going process of learning, but certainly these character traits will prove useful in our future workplaces.

University education has been taught much the same way it has always been taught since the Medieval Ages.

As any student at university will know well, the instructor delivers a lecture to his students and the students attempt to scribble every word the instructor says, according to Dr. Joseph Kim, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster.

Online education disrupts this long-held tradition, but has the potential to do more good than harm to both instructor and student who live in a society in which the once unimaginable iPod shocked the world, but today is referred to as ‘ancient.’

My recommendation? Try an online course because it may just widen your understanding of university education.


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