The benefits of online courses, why they should continue

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Photo Credit: Isabella Hollis | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community

In light of UT Austin’s recent announcement on the continuation of online course offerings into the spring, it is important that we as students ponder the positive impact of this fall’s online courses. I have found that virtual learning allows me to harness my motivational skills and take on the responsibilities of structuring my own work schedule. As a result, I have learned a great amount about myself and the way that I learn.

I hope this renaissance of self-discovery is a course of action that can continue past the pandemic — I believe that students should advocate for UT to shift certain undergraduate courses to an optional hybrid or online experience permanently. Discussions with my peers have revealed that they feel the same way.

When my voice teacher asked our Zoom class about our initial experiences with online courses, the results were refreshingly positive. Most students responded that having online classes increased their flexibility and saved them time, which allowed them to focus more closely on their schoolwork. As the college experience begins to return to in-person classes, even having one or two classes online would free students’ time and reduce their stress.

Most online classes, especially core classes, have been digitized for this fall. As a result, professors would not have to create new online content in subsequent semesters and would also have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of more flexibility. For instance, my granddad is an English professor at Dallas College. After uploading his recorded lectures, he had the flexibility to spend more time grading and meeting with his students throughout the day.

Scientific studies have shown that students who partake in online classes develop productive study habits and a strong sense of self-motivation. In a study of self-directed learning by South Korean scholars JeongChul Heo and Sumi Han, researchers found that “self-directed students are independent and autonomous in their distance learning and are positively motivated to learn at their own paces completing their online courses successfully.” 

Stanford University researchers note that online students “often discover that online learning in fact requires much more active participation and a much higher level of self-regulation.” Over the course of the fall semester, self-directed learning and self-regulation have been welcome challenges for many students. As a student who has taken 53 credit hours of online courses, I hope this self-improvement through online learning can continue.

Students who have not preferred the virtual experience may be averse to a continuation of online education. If this system was continued in-part through core classes or in a hybrid form, it would remain optional. However, as the world becomes increasingly digital, students should harness the opportunity to develop their skills in an online setting while they are immersed in the in-person learning environment.

If we can harness new platforms for online learning and flexibility in order to improve ourselves as self-motivated students, it is critical that we advocate for optional online classes to continue. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for change that should motivate a shift for some of UT’s classes to accommodate a new normal with the same fabulous professors.

At UT, “What starts here changes the world.” As one of the highest-ranking schools internationally, UT has the obligation to adhere to this guiding principle. Students, let your faculty and administration know that a virtual education has enhanced your productivity. UT Austin could be one of the first major universities to offer a world-class hybrid undergraduate online experience.

 Simonfalvi is a Rhetoric and Writing and Music freshman from Georgetown.