Do web streams and other online education experiences harm or help today’s students’ learning?

Do web streams and other online education experiences harm or help today’s students’ learning?

As the Fall 2010 semester begins, students begin this season’s education—but not in the usual way. Many are receiving more and more of their educational experience online. 

A report commissioned by conferencing company Intercall was based on a student survey, which asked more than 500 college students about their experiences with viewing course content over video streamed online.

The results? According to the survey, more than three-quarters reported that their professors have used web streaming (either a live feed or videotaped lectures) with over 30% saying that their professors use web streaming “frequently.” And a startling one in five students reported that more than half their course learning is done by viewing video content online.

Students admitted that they just show up to class for exams, instead borrowing notes from others in their class. One-third said they’ve asked a classmate to record a class for them to avoid attending in person.

What do students view as the benefits of online learning? “Being able to ‘attend’ classes even though they are really out of town” was the top answer at 63%, and “being able to attend class when they want, not when the university has it scheduled” was a close second with 58%. 47% of the surveyed students said that online content made it easier for them to work more hours at their jobs. And 43% also mentioned the benefit of not having to get dressed for class was a benefit as well. A rather puny 15% listed “being able to attend more parties” as the best benefit.

Clearly, the education system is changing. But is this advancement in technology good or bad for the minds of tomorrow’s leaders?

The students believe so, at any rate. Being able to access course content online gave students flexibility to learn at their own pace. Almost two-thirds said that viewing classes via online video lets them fast forward through the parts they do not find useful, and just over half also noted that online video helps them to spend more time studying by themselves. Furthermore, many students reported that they felt more comfortable asking questions to professors online because they don’t have to speak up in front of the class.

More so, 75% of survey respondents said that having their professors live stream their lectures or post a video of lectures online would help them be better prepared for exams. And one out of every two said that they believe they can learn more effectively watching live streams than sitting in a classroom. 54% say they’ve seen their grades improve as a result of access to video lectures.

Students may be loving it, but the parents? Not so much. One third of the students admitted their parents would be upset to hear about the their preference for finding alternative ways to access course material, and this is probably on low end of the real percent.

But it’s likely inevitable that education will continue to shift more and more online, though I hope not entirely—as with all things in life, there are cases where face-to-face, human interaction is absolutely the best way to go.