I’m taking an online course from Brigham Young University entitled Introduction to Geology: Geology 101. (external link) While I am learning a great deal I do have some constructive criticisms.
There’s little feedback or no interaction from other students or the Professor. You are very much alone with this course. There is no student forum with this class, consequently, no interaction with fellow students. I suspect there are not enough students at any one time to maintain a quorum. The professor seems equally absent, I had to look up his e-mail at BYU’s website as there is no direct link to him from the website to the course.
Although I have a “B” grade through five lessons, I could have scored higher had I taken this course in person. With that kind of class, you would have morning lectures and afternoon labs. During the labs you would be interacting with proctors, teaching assistants, students and possibly the professor. None of that happens online, indeed, it may be impossible to successfully take a physical science course online because of this lack. (By successful I mean a mastery of the materials, not just getting by.)
Most of my missed questions were from misinterpreting rock samples, drawing the wrong conclusions from an experiment that required a test tube and chemicals, and wrongly interpreting photos in .pdf files. All these things would have been bandied about first in an afternoon lab, none of that discussion occurs here. This is a structural problem inherent with an online course and perhaps insolvable. Although, perhaps, some short web videos would help . . . .
The $160 text book lacks an errata sheet or webpage to list errors and oddities. (internal link). As a writer and editor, I am mightily displeased, especially since an online errata webpage would cost only pennies to build. And I am sad that the author replied curtly to my polite suggestions. The mistakes seem limited to the third chapter but that is the one chapter I read most closely. Those mistakes carry into the online supporting materials, the publisher of which has chosen not to reply.
Again, I am learning a great deal and I am looking forward to continuing the course. No introductory geology course exists in Las Vegas that I could take in person so I am glad for this class. Honestly, I could do better. And just as honestly, the course could do better.