Online courses fail to approach teachers

Scott Kessler (‘09)/Eastside Opinions Editor

Online courses serve several functions for many students; one is to offer them a course in a relatively stress-free environment, while another is to open up a place in their schedules for a more typically preferred class. Meanwhile, other students attempt to skirt notoriously difficult in-school courses that our school provides by instead taking the online equivalent.

Online classes are offered for a multitude of on-site courses, ranging from Biology to History AP classes. Each course has its own length and price.  I for one have sampled the platter that East caters to its students, deciding to take biology online rather than here at East. This decision allowed me to choose a one-year history elective that I likely would not have been able to take otherwise.

However, many students choose to take courses online specifically to avoid the grueling task of taking them in school. This decision alleviates the overwhelming stress of numerous homework assignments, tests and essays that an AP course or another equally difficult course might entail. In addition to a significant reduction to the effort in completing the course, the result also unfairly favors the student taking the online course.  While a student taking the class in school might receive a hit to his or her GPA, an online student’s GPA would be unaffected, either for better or for worse.

We, as in society, watch enough law-related television shows to understand the phrase “breaking the spirit of the law,” which is wholly applicable to this particular situation. A person cannot be properly educated by a lifeless machine, much less via the cheap, knock-off textbooks that are normally packaged with these aforementioned online courses.

I was forced to use the textbook American Pageant by Thomas Bailey, which can also be found as referred to in the book Lies that My Teachers Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen. To put it somewhat lightly, Loewen views American Pageant neither as a historically accurate nor academically vital textbook for high schools or, for that matter, any other conceivable purpose.

The fact is that online courses do not provide the level of education that East aspires to present to its students. When we walk into school each and every day, we are bombarded by declarations of East’s academic achievements, the most major of which is the blue ribbon. Not one of those judges could justifiably pin that same ribbon upon the screen of a computer running an online course. Any student, when taking a step back from his or her own particular set of circumstances, would agree with those statements.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, the definition of education is “to develop mentally, morally or aesthetically, especially by instruction.” Not a single person can provide ample examples of online courses developing any of the things with which education is defined. Computers do not act as a substitute for face-to-face interaction that presents at least the possibility of both mental and moral development.

As Jim Rhodes, played by Terrence Howard, claimed in Iron Man, machines can never truly overtake a human pilot in the skies because of the unique human instinct. By that same logic, a computer can never replace a human teacher in the classroom due to the knowledge, instinct and interaction the latter exclusively brings to the table.

Online courses simply will never provide the education that a classroom does on a regular basis.