College students have been severely impacted by budget cuts and the increasing size of classrooms. Traditional four-year colleges have tried to find a variety of solutions to get students to graduate within the four years they are supposed to. Some are in the process of implementing online courses that count as traditional college credit, with the goal of having students graduate on time and decreasing the size of classrooms. Although online courses can accelerate a college degree, having them can also have a negative impact on students because it eliminates the need to participate fully in a traditional college environment. Things like networking are only available on a physical campus and are a way for students to broaden their horizons and be prepared for the future. An online course prevents students from receiving the traditional college experience.
The New York Times states that online courses are “a pilot project to determine whether some free online course[s] are similar enough to traditional college courses that they should be eligible for credit.” If this project continues, it would decrease the amount of freshmen applying to four-year universities because they would find that attending community colleges is less expensive. Since online courses would be offered in place of “introductory and remedial courses,” it would be cheaper, and cheaper prices attract struggling students. The competition to get into four-year colleges would decrease and less-qualified applicants would be admitted, with the end result being a decrease in the college’s credibility.
Going to a traditional four-year college means spending a lot of time away from home and experiencing things a student wouldn’t normally encounter by staying at home with their parents. Colleges offer a variety of ways to be active on campus with a diverse pool of students. There are clubs, volunteering opportunities, work-study programs, internships and even programs that allow students to study abroad that each lead to a student’s success in college and beyond. These opportunities can only be offered if a student attends a four-year university. If online courses start substituting the college credit of those courses offered at a traditional college, it deprives students of opportunities that can benefit their future.
Traditional colleges, like UCR, offer discussions where students can gain a better understanding of the material with a smaller number of students. The teaching assistant reviews and answers any misunderstandings during the lectures. A relationship between the TA and student can sometimes even make the difference between a B+ and an A-, among other things. The TA and professor both hold office hours where the students can ask questions about the course; these opportunities may not necessarily be available for students who are enrolled in online courses. Professors at traditional colleges have successful careers and can help guide students in the right direction, and the TAs in the courses are graduate students that can assist students as well. They also can be used as resources. Through this, students learn the fundamentals of communicating in a formal fashion, a skill required later in life.
In the long run, a relationship between the student and professor is necessary when the student is applying to graduate schools, as most graduate schools require letters of recommendation explaining why the student should be eligible for that specific school. Online courses may not give students the opportunity to obtain recommendation letters. Although some students are not considering graduate school, those who are must stand out from the rest. Graduate schools want students to prove themselves as an asset to the institution and they do this by requiring recommendation letters.
Online courses cheat students out of a bachelor’s degree and maybe even a master’s degree if they decide to pursue it in the future. Yes, online courses are cheaper and accelerate a student’s degree, but students miss out on the opportunities and networking that can only be obtained physically on a college campus. These unique opportunities are there for students to take advantage of, and benefit from, after they graduate. The clubs and organizations on campus can also be the determining factor of a secure job in the future. When applying for jobs, companies look for leadership experience, which can only be obtained when a student takes advantage of leadership roles on campus. Students must also learn how to create relationships with others, including their professors and TAs, because this is a tool that they will use in the future.
The purpose of the relationship or networking built within a traditional college is only beneficial to the student. The college campus creates an environment similar to that the “real world” and students should take advantage of every opportunity. Overall, college on a campus is a learning experience that should be taken advantage of. The students who want to excel take advantage of the opportunities and do not take the easy way out, like enrolling in online courses.