How convenient- I never have to show up for class and my deadlines are not until midnight. I don’t have to spend more hours on campus sitting in a classroom- ideal.

My initial understanding and perception of online classes were quickly skewed with my first go at it: LIB 120. Apart from the course itself being my first mistake, I began understanding the online education model and its high risk for failure.

Making up for an individual mishap from the semester prior, my Fall 2012 semester consisted of a hellish 19-credit load. My thoughts were that the additional sixth online class would give me time to breathe while still getting the credit.

Wrong.

I had due-dates almost every day of the week that consisted of lengthy annotated bibliographies, extensive readings and discussion responses to my invisible classmates. I remember weeks spent unsure if I had missed assignments and the anxiety when I realized that I had and the assignment page was now “locked”, unable to be accessed any longer. My ghost-like duties can never seem to take precedence.

From the various online classes I’ve taken, I can respectively say they perpetuate a feeling of irresponsibility for me. Its convenience that I first presumed becomes a burden and stress, which I can always count on ambiguous emails that confuse original deadlines, forums or expectations. There is something lacking in the pedagogy of online classes that I think should be addressed. How can professors make an entire semester’s course more engaging than Sakai postings?

The once-thought convenience aspect of online classes have hindered my ability to understand or comprehend much of what is going on in the ones I have taken. As a college student who prefers face-to-face engagement and stimulation from class discussion, writing a “forum post” does not reach this kind of reaction. It does not further my intellect and simply becomes a task that must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., before I am once again, “locked” out of the conversation.

The best classes I’ve experienced at the University of Rhode Island are those that inspire me. The ones that provoke stimulating conversations have made me strive to submit high-level work, unlike the assignments posted for online submission.

The communal feeling of a classroom is something that potentially could become obsolete. According to research and data found from the Online Education office, last spring there were 2,336 total online class enrollments, up from 2,067 from the previous fall. The enrollment is steadily climbing. From the 2010-2011 academic school year to 2013-2014 year, enrollment for online classes is up 63 percent.

Should there be a concern for this? Our generation has been coined as the “screen-age” and fearing of face-to-face confrontation, so I wonder if the increase correlates to the stigma that follows 21st century students. How much are these online classes enhancing our learning?

URI offers online classes in 20 undergraduate and graduate disciplines. Students in communication studies library studies, psychology, gender and women studies and writing have reached the highest numbers in online class enrollment. Notably missing from these top five are programs such as engineering and nursing. It makes me worry that the students in similar studies as me are not receiving enough intellectual activation because of more offered online classes.  I wonder who sits down and decides which topics of study can be effectively conveyed without face-to-face communication.