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iCourses are a good alternative, but they are not 'Plan A'

iCourses are a good alternative when your schedule doesn't allow time for traditional classes, but do not expect them to be easy.

ASU students study inside the Computing Commons, which is located in the heart of the Tempe campus, on Jan. 21. ASU has been recognized for its innovation in online classes.

ASU students study inside the Computing Commons, which is located in the heart of the Tempe campus, on Jan. 21. ASU has been recognized for its innovation in online classes.

Online classes — ASU offers hundreds of them. You can complete assignments when you’re at work or you can do them half-naked on your couch. The student has the control, and that makes iCourses awesome, right?

But, there are a few misconceptions regarding online schooling. Sure, it’s great for some people, but iCourses come with challenges many traditional students have not previously faced, and myths that surround the pretty idea of an independent education.

Just because it is offered online, does not mean the class is inherently easy. 

Truthfully, University syllabi do not vary much from professor to professor within the same classes. The content offered in an online class should be nearly identical to the information you would receive in an in-person setting. The University’s goal in the creation of iCourses is that the student taking them is still just as proficient on the topic regardless of the learning environment.

On "your own time" is not necessarily synonymous with "takes less time."

Again, iCourse content is intended to be very similar, if not identical, to in-class material. Most iCourses come with lectures, readings and homework. Sometimes they even have regular quizzes and occasionally, proctored tests. Learning still takes time regardless of the way you do it. Yes, master procrastinators will say you can get the course content done moments before deadline, and sometimes you can. However, nobody learns at the exact same pace and if completing everything an hour before your deadline arrives is your game plan, you may want to reconsider.

You cannot underestimate the power of actually being present in a classroom.

There is a reason that taking online school is still in general, only an alternative to traditional courses. Hybrid courses have been implemented here at ASU, where a class is partially online and partially in person, but the University still wants students in classrooms for lecture. Being in class has a variety of advantages as far as learning and socialization are concerned.

First and foremost, your professor is at your fingertips. You can stop your professor at any point in time to ask a question, instead of merely sending an email and trying to work through the lecture without clarification. Additionally, professors often have real-world experience that they are willing to share when it is applicable during lecture, which is often the type of information that gets omitted from pre-recorded iCourses.

Also, having classmates learning at the same speed as you can be helpful with clarification when a professor cannot provide it. Not to mention, study groups are much easier to form when you are actually meeting your classmates, not just seeing their posts on Blackboard discussion boards.

iCourses are the product of busy student schedules and ever-evolving technology. 

They are an innovative and often effective supplementation to any new-age education, but they are not a cop-out. College was never supposed to be easy, and ASU would never willingly allow its students to take courses that fell below their standards.

Reach the columnist at or follow @KPenningroth on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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