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Campus News CU - Bloomsburg Opinion and Editorial

Asynchronous Classes: Are they Worth the Price We Pay?

In 2020, the world was turned upside down with the introduction of the Coronavirus. Students everywhere had to switch to online classes, as face-to-face was no longer an option. Three years later, higher education systems are normalizing the use of virtual learning. The increased use of asynchronous college courses has raised a multitude of questions regarding tuition costs and course benefits.

Students at Bloomsburg University are not always given the option of having all in-person courses. The National Library of Medicine has conducted research and found that there are “over 3 million students nationwide having participated in at least one online course” (Front Psychol, 2019). The number of Bloomsburg students taking online courses is not an easy find, but after the integration, there has been an obvious increase in online courses. Asynchronous classes allow professors to post all the work at one time with different due dates. This gives students the ability to work on the course whenever it fits into their schedule. Class discussions, readings, and weekly homework in addition to quizzes are given to hold students responsible for the material taught.

If Universities cut the cost of asynchronous classes, they would become more equivalent to ‘traditional’ courses. Current BU student, Elizabeth Mauser mentions “I think asynchronous classes are good in theory, but bad in practice for the average student. I think in-person should be the priority, and that the average class sizes should be larger, or they should offer more times of the same class. It’s definitely frustrating when you’re stuck taking an online class because the in-person was filled up.” With the integration of Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lockhaven, there needs to be a solution to these online-only courses. It’s unfair to students that they are being charged the same amount of money for async classes as in-person courses. Students are receiving only half the quality of learning in asynchronous classes. The University can’t coerce professors to teach more courses, so there needs to be some type of alternative option. 

Nationwide Studies

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has conducted a multitude of studies about online learning pre and post COVID-19. The NLM had a wide array of answers and research however, what stood out the most was The Department of Education’s conclusion. In a recent article, “The Department of Education’s meta-analysis noted that research results did not find online learning to be a superior method” (Soc Sci Humanit Open, 2023). If the Department of Education is claiming the inferior methods of online learning, then there needs to be a price difference between online and face-to-face instruction. 

Bloomsburg specifically, has converted many courses online due to the integration and the need for courses taught by professors at one of our other campuses. A lot of times, students don’t have any other options than to take an online course. Males and females have different experiences in university, and “Evidence suggests the shift to online learning may have also exacerbated pre-existing physical and mental health conditions (i.e. anxiety), particularly for female students” (Front Psychol, 2019). There seems to be common knowledge that there is a “lack of community as a common issue with online learning” (Front Psychol, 2019). This affects any campus that offers online courses. Building a strong community while in college is one of the most beneficial ways to stay the healthiest, mentally, and physically. 

As a campus, there should be a focus on providing the best educational resources to all students. Studies show, “Students among minority demographic groups report lower satisfaction with online education overall and greater challenges with peer and professor interactions” (Front Psychol, 2019). The Bloomsburg campus is inclusive and needs to think about how to provide for students from any background. 

How Professor Interaction with Students are Affected

Professors become mentors to lots of students. When students can’t easily interact with a professor, they are missing out on the chance to gain beneficial insights. Students can reach out to professors of asynchronous classes, but when they only receive PowerPoint and reading, they have no prior knowledge of the professor. In-person courses can also help the professor see how students react and learn certain materials.

When in asynchronous courses, there is very little interaction with peers, other than responding to discussion posts. This prevents the formation of study groups and decreases the socialization that is included in traditional coursework. Forcing students to take online courses involuntarily, as they are the only option in lots of scenarios, does not look good for the campus or for the students. 

Bloomsburg Students React

Online courses are not going to disappear. If anything, they will become more prominent in our future.  Talking with current students and staff at the university an opinion has been formed regarding the retention and effects of these types of courses. After conducting a survey on social media 93% (281/303) of students believe that asynchronous classes need to be less money. Ashley Villano claims,”When you have no other option but to take an online, asynchronous class, it should ultimately be cheaper because the experience is different.”  Students in college don’t want to feel like they are not gaining anything out of classes. Shayne Piro, a Dual Early Childhood/Special Education student, says she feels “you don’t build any relationships and you are teaching yourself at times.” It is crucial to take certain classes for each major and when students feel they don’t learn as much in online courses; they should not have to pay the same amount as they would in face-to-face classes. 

The Department of Education has researched the different learning methods, but one of the linguistics students at Bloomsburg has a similar feeling. International student Abdelkader Elkhaoua  says, “The async classes lack that sense of interaction among learners or between a learner and an instructor. This results in a more passive learning process, which is against the latest teaching methods and approaches.” Most students at Bloomsburg feel that they don’t know their professors. Kelly Eberly claims “You can feel disconnected from the professor or other classmates because of the lack of face-to-face interactions.” Another student says, “I do think asynchronous classes should be cheaper considering you have less of a personal connection with the material and the professor. I do enjoy online classes, but they have a different feel than face-to-face classes” (Madeline DiMarco). Without peer interactions, students become secluded, as the students have stated. 

Two students have alternative opinions on the cost and use of asynchronous courses. Their focus is more on the benefits of asynchronous courses, on student states “I like that you get to be independent and work at your own pace, but I also feel like you can procrastinate more and fall behind easier” (Anna Palm.) Some students might be better at getting work done than others. As a student, you should have the option to choose what is best for you. Senior, Carly Busfield, remarks “I think online classes should not cost less because many students would choose that option for the easier experience in their education rather than the practical, hands-on journey.” There are always two sides to every issue, but students who are paying for courses need a compromise.

How Can Lowering the Cost of Asynchronous Courses Benefit Both the University and Students?

If students are receiving half to ¾ the experience and learning of a ‘traditional’ course, it makes the most sense that they pay for what they get. Not all students want to enroll in asynchronous courses, but sometimes they don’t have a choice. A way to look at cutting the cost of asynchronous classing is by thinking about how it could help the university with enrollment. A lot of nontraditional students take asynchronous classes because the classes work with their schedules better. 

By cutting down the cost, Bloomsburg could attract more nontraditional students because the academic cost is decreased. This gives options to nontraditional students, but also students who are struggling financially and need options. Completely asynchronous degrees are being offered around the world at a cheaper price and if Bloomsburg lowered the price of asynchronous classes, they could start offering fully online degrees at a competitive cost. The students and statistics have spoken. All there is to do now is wait and see if the University will listen.