Online Classes and McLuhan: Effective Use of Media Or Waste of Time?

The modern world of higher education has changed dramatically in the past decade. With cost of tuition skyrocketing, and the desire for parents to send their children to college rising with it, universities are scrambling to remain competitive. Many if not all continue to build gorgeous new buildings, and invest in new technologies so that they can continue to exist in this “education bubble.” In recent years, one of the most common technologies used has become the online classroom. With no actual presence of a professor, students read, write, and turn in coursework all through an online digital media. Entire university programs have sprung up, with colleges such as the University of Phoenix and Ashford University offering upper level degrees without ever having to set foot in a classroom.

Many critics of this new educational media have argued that it does not serve the true purpose of higher education. McLuhan himself argues that in the upbringing of a child, and I believe in education in general, “Growing up—that is our new work, and it is total. Mere instruction will not suffice.” I believe online institutions can in many cases serve to benefit those who are already members of the workforce, or who perhaps do not have the time to physically attend a university. However, within the environment of a 4-year institution it seems these courses provide a shortcut for universities to raise enrollment and revenue without sacrificing any real resources of their own.

According to an article on online in the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, “no significant relationships were found between students’ self-motivation and perceived learning outcomes.” (2) This shows that not only are students less motivated to perform well in online, but even if they do they will see no significant benefit from it. However, the article goes on to say that having online courses can act as an effective supplement to a more traditional academic schedule. As long as the teacher is still actively involved with the students and the coursework, there are still plenty of benefits which can potentially outweigh the negative aspects. “More specifically, there is a clear relationship between instructor feedback and student satisfaction and perceived outcomes. Feedback is a motivator to many students and should be incorporated into the design and teaching of online courses”

In the end, I believe that the ultimate issue with online courses is whether or not students and teachers alike will be able to properly engage in them. As with any method of teaching or learning, the more one puts into it the more they are likely to get out of it. Having systems to hold both parties accountable throughout the course must be in place. At institutions such as Ohio State, I think it might also be helpful to still have office hours available to all students so that they might still have this benefit. In a world where the cost of education constantly grows higher every year, we must be able to find ways to cut expenses. Though the education to some may not seem as rigorous, it seems for  now that online courses offer an easy partial solution to this problem.

1. McLuhan, Marshall-Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage 2005

2. Eom SB, Wen HJ, Ashill N. 2006 The Determinants of Students’ Perceived Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction in University Online Education: An Empirical Investigation. DSJIE 4, 215-235.


4 thoughts on “Online Classes and McLuhan: Effective Use of Media Or Waste of Time?”

  1. The education aspect was especially interesting to me as I was reading the work by McLuhan. I would agree that online classes can offer some benefits in particular situations. However, it is also a bit scary that students can get a full degree in today’s society without ever entering an actual academic institution. I think this reiterates what McLuhan wrote about technology in general. Online classes are allowing people to receive an education without interacting with other students and professors, which is an integral part of learning.


  2. I agree with you. Online classes themselves don’t contain issues, the way people utilize them is the issue. If there’s a well-designed institution for online classes, I think they could even be the replacement of the traditional college someday. The way of learning is not as important as the effectiveness of learning.


  3. I definitely agree that online classes take away from the learning experience, and I can also see how students could become less motivated to learn when the course is all online. I do feel like online courses are very convenient sometimes, especially if the student is busy with work or if that particular class doesn’t fit into their schedule. Personally, I like to physically go to class because I feel like I learn more that way, but sometimes you don’t have a choice but to take the class online.


  4. I can see why there is a controversy on online classes. I see why some people don’t see online classes as part of the learning experience. I actually had taken some online classes before and I can see why it different from the classroom type of class. I was definitely less motivated and got distracted much easier because I could easy switch to a different tab. I feel like online classes like physical classes can have the same learning experience if you are willing to put in the effort and time. I think that online classes are convenient. I took an online class during summer and the greatest part was that I was traveling to other countries but still be able to get my education.


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