It's been a while since I've blogged about virtual classrooms, and lately I've been wondering about the class participation levels in online versus offline spaces.
I've taken some non-law courses lately both in the virtual space and in real life classrooms - yes, they still exist even outside law schools.
In my recent experiences in classes that have a participation component, I've noticed that in the virtual classroom, more students seem to post on every thread of a discussion, while in the real space classroom (due to physical and temporal constraints), not everyone weighs in on every discussion point. I'm wondering it that's a good or a bad thing. Allowing people a whole week to weigh in on each discussion point and give them all the time and space to provide a lengthy response certainly encourages individual thinking about a problem. However, it can lose the spontenaity and detailed interaction of in-class discussions, and can end up with a bunch of individual students writing mini-essays on an issue without paying much attention to what others have contributed.
In cases where students are geographically dispersed, the online interactions are necessarily the main discussion forum, although they can be augmented with real time online chat sessions. But I'm wondering what is lost if more educational initiatives are moved partly or wholly online. I love the flexibility of online learning and the ability to interact with students around the country and around the world. But I wonder what we lose in the absence of face-to-face discussions.