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Online “No Man Is an Island”

I am reminded of this quote by John Donne as my Marketing 201 online class moves into the final week of the summer session.  Having taught this online course for several years, I am always struck by the range of expectations that students bring to an online course.  Despite their technology and social media savvy, this is frequently a new experience.  At one extreme, some believe that this will be identical to a face-t0-face classroom experience, with the prof lecturing on (and essentially repeating) material that has been assigned, and students applying the concepts on homework and exams.  At the other extreme, some students expect the equivalent of a correspondence course, during which they can complete all work alone on their own time schedule.  As my students will attest, neither of these notions are accurate — at least using my teaching approach.

My approach tends toward “flipping” the class.  Students are provided with recorded lectures, assigned readings and online homework to familiarize them with basic marketing concepts.  This should all be completed on their own time outside of class.  Our synchronous class time on Adobe Connect is meant to stimulate the application of concepts, critical thinking and discussion.  This is predicated, of course, on the assumption that students learn and grasp the concepts before our class meeting, which may not always be the case.  To prevent confusion, I do a short summery of the concepts that are the focus of the current week’s class.  More importantly, the students working together on projects as well as interacting in class (agreeing and disagreeing with each other) is designed to bring about engaged learning.  This adds a social element that is missing with the “correspondence course” approach.  In my experience the online chat can be more lively than a traditional classroom setting, since it allows more than one student to talk at once.  Even shy students can add their comments without feeling self-conscious.

Yes, we always have our share of glitches.  At one point the system was upgraded in the midst of a pre-scheduled exam period.  Several students had connection issues and I myself lost the internet in the middle of one class.  Flexibility on the part of the students and the professor is a prerequisite for online study.  We can always do a work-around solution.  More importantly, students from across the country and outside the U.S. were able to take and course and present their work to each other.  The original goal of these summer online courses — to enable our undergrads to complete their degrees more quickly without having to remain near campus — appears to be succeeding.  Joining the party are students from other schools who may avail themselves to these courses.  The result is that once again my summer Marketing 201 course has a mix of U.S. and international Loyola students and students from other universities.  This educational community is far from insular.

I have asked them to comment on their online experience. I am curious to hear their honest reactions to what may or may not be a new educational experience.

Mary Ann

  • By Evan Landmann on 7.17.2014 at 7:07 pm

    The convenience of the class really outshines any negative aspect. As a student who lives and works out of state in the summer, online class was essentially the only option. At first, I was hesitant. Technology is incredibly fickle and there are days when the system, the internet, my computer, or any combination of the 3 don’t work. However, the class is structured in such a way that even major technological issues are no more than annoyances and plenty of leeway is given to correct technological stumbles.

    The biggest issue is the impersonal feel of the class. We’re now 7 weeks into this class and personally, I still prefer the classic classroom setting. I find it harder to focus when I’m on a laptop in my own room, rather than taking notes in a notebook in a room where the teacher can see me.

    Ultimately, I would recommend online courses to students who need the convenience but not as a substitute to traditional learning.

  • By Olivia Conti on 7.17.2014 at 10:56 pm

    By participating in Dr. McGrath’s class, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the class. I thought that it was going to be an overload of information and terms. What I found out what that it was very interactive and engaging.

    Often times I feel that grades in a class rely too heavily on just exams. In this class we have homework, a case presentation, participation and exams to truly test our knowledge of information. I think this gave me more confidence in the material I was learning because I knew that I wasn’t constantly being tested on it.

    Another thing I really enjoyed about the course was the laid back environment of the class on Wednesdays. Dr. McGrath made us feel comfortable in commenting and speaking to the class where as in many of my other classes I felt that I was too nervous to raise my hand in fear of being wrong.

    This class though, don’t be mistaken is not a blow off. It requires a lot of self motivation to do the weekly assignments but because the course is so relevant and contemporary you want to do the work. Not to mention Dr. McGrath makes everything very clear and exciting.

    Anyone who is considering taking a course like this I would highly recommend it because it is definitely a unique experience.

  • By Andrew Loksa on 7.18.2014 at 12:59 pm

    Before taking this class I was a bit skeptical on just how much I would learn when a class can be taken online and where you don’t physically have to be in a classroom. I have found out that it can be done mainly with the homework that is required for the course and Dr. McGrath reenforcing basic key concepts that we need to stick with in our business careers. There is however pros and cons to taking a class online though. One big pro is that wherever you live you can have the convenience of your own home and for the most part your own schedule on when to take the class and do classwork. On the other hand when you are not in a classroom, especially at home you can get very distracted and just surf the web instead of listening to the lectures. If I had the option to take one of my major accounting classes either online or in the classroom I would choose a classroom strictly due to the fact that I cannot get distracted. For the purpose of taking MARK 201 I feel like I have learned a lot in just 8 weeks and is definitely a cool experience well being able to take the class with students all across the world. Would recommend!

  • By Scott Adams on 7.19.2014 at 5:18 pm

    I am a senior at Loyola University and this is my first online class. I work 50 plus hours a week and attend Loyola full time. I chose to schedule summer classes to ensure graduation in spring 2015. Along with this class I have 3 other online summer courses this semester. This is a challenge, yes, but the way that this specific course is taught helps me out significantly. The other 3 classes either have no meeting times, no deadlines (to an extent), or there is almost too much “freedom.” But with this class it has everything. It has flexibility within order, meeting times, and a more than understanding professor. Although, I am old-scholl when it comes to class. I like face-to-face interaction at a brick and mortar school. I enjoy the feel, energy, and oddly enough the smell of open books and sanitized classrooms. I know it may sound “weird,” but it is true. Yes, the online option is great and it is really helping me, but if I had to choose I would chose face-to-face, brick and mortar classes.

  • By Gwen Davis on 7.20.2014 at 12:24 pm

    This class has been an educational experience in more ways than one. As my second online class, it is much different than my previous class. The weekly interaction and support from both the professor and peers is very helpful in retaining the community feeling while also allowing the flexibility that comes with the online schedule. I like the online format for homework, because the activities are helpful for a visual learner such as myself, and removes the dull monotony that comes from learning from a non-interactive, in-person lecture format. That being said, there has been a definite learning curve. It is hard for me to retain knowledge in a virtual format as opposed to seeing it on paper. I have had to teach myself ways to learn from an online textbook and online lectures. Having the homework has helped me firm up the shaky knowledge I was able to glean from the online format, but it still takes me much more time to remember what I’ve learned. Hopefully as time goes on, I can get better at learning from the online format, but in the meantime, I have realized that I prefer having a class (or at least the textbook) be in person and on paper.

  • By Judy Ni on 7.20.2014 at 5:52 pm

    I am an incoming Junior at Loyola University and this was my very first online class. Before enrolling in this class I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to take an online class because I thought it would take away all the learning experiences I would have had for Marketing 201. In my surprise, this class was more enjoyable then I expected. Although I still prefer going to an actual classroom, this online class provided many things that kept me focused such as having a powerpoint with many visuals, having discussions as a class, and having the case studies. This class also made it very convenient for out of state students as well as for traveling purposes. Overall, this experience have definitely changed my views of an online class.

  • By Xinmeng Zhao on 7.21.2014 at 3:00 am

    I am a junior student in Loyola University and this was my first online class ever. Before this class started I thought it would be a lot of discussions during every lecture. Being an international student, English is not my first language, so I was not very confident that I could succeed in this class. However I realized that it was a very interesting class because I could interact with Professor McGrath and other classmates at the same time by typing in the text box, and since it’s not real class I wouldn’t be as nervous when I want to answer a question or express my opinion. What’s more, the time is very flexible for exams because I can start whenever I am ready as long as I finish in the required time frame. When I make mistakes with my homework, I can always find out the right answer and the explanations after I finish. Even when I don’t understand some parts of classes, I can go back and listen to those recorded lectures, which really helps me to study the difficult and complicated parts. In summary, it turns out I am doing pretty well and having a wonderful and different experience in this online class.

  • By Zach Aldrich on 7.21.2014 at 1:00 pm

    As a business student at Loyola University Chicago, I understand the importance of experience along with an education. Because of this online class, I was able to complete an internship in New York City, while gaining credits for school. This class not only allowed me to complete assignments at my own pace and time, but was very intriguing, and helped me to gain a better understanding of marketing. Though I still have a few more years to complete my degree, I will definitely be using the summers to take additional online classes so that I can work from wherever job or internship opportunities arise.

  • By Rebecca Minsoo Seo on 7.24.2014 at 9:11 pm

    I am a business student at LUC and this was my first experience of online course. Of course, there are some negative perspective such as I have to have a good internet connection and self-motivation. Also, it was hard to keep up the class time and assignment due since I was in Korea, not in US. However, the course was essential to me because I did not take any major courses during freshman year and I am double-major student. Moreover, I do not have place to stay in Chicago during summer so online-course was perfect. While I am in Korea, I could take benefit of taking LUC professors’ class. The online course does not require the fixed place if I have a good connection so I could travel or do other stuff in different area. So it is perfect for people like me who travel a lot during summer.

  • By Mary Kesinger on 7.25.2014 at 4:31 pm

    This was my first online class, and I truly enjoyed it. Its setup was entirely different from what I expected, but I liked the class portion where we participated and got to see everyone else’s comments and opinions. It was a relaxed atmosphere that didn’t feel pressured at all, so it was comfortable to share my own thoughts. It was very convenient since I’m not in Chicago, but there were some technical troubles for me. In very rural Illinois, it was difficult at first to find a place for wifi that could handle the internet usage for the class. Figuring out the headset took a shocking amount of effort, and sometimes Connect gave me issues. Aside from those overall minor issues, I felt I was able to learn a lot. It definitely wasn’t an easy class, as there was still plenty of work to be done and deadlines to meet. However, it was worthwhile and seemed to be beneficial for me as a business student.

  • By Jen Li on 7.25.2014 at 9:13 pm

    My name is Jen and I am a Junior at LUC. I’m from Minnesota, and this summer is my first experience with taking online courses. I pictured that an online course would be the professor giving the lecture, students taking notes, and there would be some sort of an online service provider where students do homework and take exams. I didn’t expect this online course to be as interactive as it is, but I am also thankful that it turns out this way. I have heard from upperclassmen that marketing is a course that is more beneficial to be taken in a traditional classroom setting, because that way it can be more interactive. The assigned presentation on marketing case studies allowed me to better understand the lesson’s concepts and get the opportunity to work with a classmate. I like the flexibility given to me to allow me to complete homework and exams within a time frame. The workload I wouldn’t say is any less if I took this in the fall, but I’m glad that I got to complete a course in 7-8 weeks compared to an entire semester. Overall, I am thankful that an online course for marketing is offered so that I wouldn’t have to make extra expenses to stay on campus over the summer, and get to stay back home in Minnesota.

  • By Anbreen Basher on 7.26.2014 at 6:56 pm

    I will be a junior in the fall, and unlike many students in this class, this is actually not my first experience with an online class. I had taken one last summer as well, so I kind of knew what to expect in terms of lectures and weekly meetings. But last summer we also had to get accustomed to the transition to Sakai.
    Much like many of the other students in this class, I like online classes for their convenience. I don’t live in Chicago, and as wonderful as Chicago is in the summer, I love being home, which is what prompted me to take an online class last summer. Additionally, I’m not always motivated to get up and learn, so I like that I can essentially do my work at my own pace. And though they may not be as nice as traditional class regarding contact with the professor, I think the weekly classes gave us sufficient time for any verbal explanations necessary, because I know how difficult it can be to explain oneself in words. And I think the case studies were a pretty cool way to engage every student because I definitely didn’t have to do anything like that last summer and it forced me to be more involved in the class. Overall, I think online classes are a good alternative to the traditional classroom and I would certainly recommend them to any other student in a situation similar to mine.

  • By Annalise Schulter on 7.27.2014 at 11:06 am

    Before this class, I was definitely nervous. I hadn’t taken an online class before, and I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how homework, tests, or anything else was going to be done. After attending the first lecture, I instantly felt at ease. I think the way we were able to participate really helped as well. Some students aren’t comfortable talking out loud, so it was nice to be able to type our comments into a message board when we wanted to participate. Dr. McGrath made the environment very comfortable. She was pleasant to listen to each week, and kept the class both interesting and relatable. As this course is coming to an end, I am very glad I took it. I’ve learned a lot in such a short period of time. I will most likely take more online courses in the future.

  • By Alex Carlins on 7.27.2014 at 12:14 pm

    This was my first experience with online college courses and, after (almost) completing the course, I strongly recommend this format of learning for all people. I think online learning could make a huge difference in the American educational system were it to become more widespread. Yes, there are always technical difficulties which can be frustrating, but of course it is far more convenient to be in a lecture from home instead of in a classroom. But beyond the convenience, I see this becoming a huge improvement in our educational system because if more people can get college degrees from taking courses online, more underprivileged students can afford a college education. Students who could not afford to attend a university could just pay for online classes which would save the money on board, tuition, transportation, etc. It also works better for students who might be working a full time job. Basically my point is that online education could make a world of difference in educating the lower class. I know this was slightly off topic but I felt it was important to bring up. In evaluating my personal experience with this class, unrelated to the bigger picture stuff, I really enjoyed the class. I loved being in class from the comfort of my home and it was actually much easier for me to focus in shorter segments like how our class was divided up. I thought the work load was very fair and I found the professor to be extremely helpful, flexible, and understanding. I had a great experience with this online course and I would absolutely do it again given the opportunity.

  • By Alfredo Rodriguez on 7.28.2014 at 1:18 am

    I really enjoyed the experience of taking Marketing 201 online course. I’m not gonna lie, it is far more different than a regular classroom course than what I expected. One of the advantages of this is that I got to see that there were really interesting people by reading what they said in the chat and watching their presentations. In a normal course, I probably don’t focus as much on what my classmates are saying. However, a disadvantage of this is that I didn’t get to meet them personally.
    Something that had me worried before taking this course is the fact that I thought that I wouldn’t lear as much as I wanted to because I thought that the professor might had difficulties to communicate her message to the class, however since the very first meeting I stopped worrying about it since Professor McGrath was always very clear about the content of the course and kept it interesting at the same time.
    I also think that online courses are one of the best things that Loyola has implemented since I’m not American, I can still take part of this being at home and not missing it during the summer and personally I really appreciate that.

  • By Naijia Dong on 7.29.2014 at 8:43 am

    I’m a visit student from IIT. I’m taking this online course and trying to graduate in Spring 2015. I enjoyed a lot when taking Marketing 201. It’s my second time taking online course and it is quite different than my first one, which had no meeting time, no presentation, and no assignment. Taking this course, I learned a lot about marketing from lectures and presentations. I’m really interested in this business segment.

  • By Umar Aziz on 7.29.2014 at 2:12 pm

    I began the course rather skeptically because I wasn’t sure how effectively someone could teach an online course. Although after the first few sessions Dr. McGrath put my worries to rest. She is extremely helpful and patient. Beyond that her lectures are fairly entertaining and very informative. I very much appreciated her teaching style as she always managed to keep the class engaged in discussion. The one thing I personally was dissatisfied with was the group case presentation. I wish that we had more time to go over the requirements and topics before having to choose our assignment. Furthermore working with a partner was a difficult considering there was no way to meet with your partner or hold them accountable for their share of work. Granted though this was a shortened summer course and I think given the time and communication constraints this class was surprisingly engaging and easy to follow. I can confidently say I am in support of online classes because of my experience in Dr. McGrath’s Marketing 201 course.

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