One of the biggest selling points to online education is that it is “anytime, anywhere” learning – meaning that you can learn according to your schedule, where ever you can get access to the Internet. I know it doesn’t always equate to this exactly in real life, but it does get close most of the time.
At a recent focus group, I was discussing how I had a hard time figuring out the plagiarism rules for a class I was in online. The issue wasn’t stealing someone else’s work – it was reusing a portion of my own work. Both papers in question needed a section on the history of EdTech and, well, there’s not a wide range of ways to cover that in a few paragraphs. I couldn’t find info about self-recycling in the syllabus of either class, so I researched it online and found that the academic community seems to be split on it. So I decided to try as hard as I could to make both sections totally different (which proved difficult) and not chance it.
The response at the session was the usual: “why didn’t you just ask the professor?” My response was supposed to be “I’m a pretty do-it-yourself guy, and I didn’t want to wait for the response.” All that came out was that I didn’t want to wait for the response. Then the uproar followed: “well, those professors should get on the ball and respond faster! How dare they wait more that 12 hours to respond to e-mail!” (yep, someone said all that)
Really? I mean – if your bossed required you to check your work email at home and respond at all hours of the night, what would you think about that job? In a face-to-face class, if the professor’s office hours were on Thursdays, and class was on Tuesday, and you had a question on Friday – guess when you would get your answer? Maybe on Monday, bu probably In four days. Definitely not 12 hours.
If we are going to promote “anytime, anywhere learning,” I guess we do need to expand office hours beyond the fours hours a week that they traditionally have happened. But there has got to be a balance. Professors have lives, too. They need to take time away from work during the week to be refreshed themselves. And they need time to keep up with their field of study so that they can give us current, relevant information. So, where is the balance?