Education: online vs in-person

Since a sizable chunk of the Racket community are teachers and academics, what are the pros and cons of online instruction? What do the stats tell? Are students doing better in-person or online(compared to previous semesters)? Has it changed the way you do things?


Hi @jestarray . I teach various programming courses at my university, but I don't teach Racket. Here are some brief answers anyway. Feel free to ask if you are interested in more details.

Pro: Online instruction is more flexible, as even live sessions can be recorded and watched later. Also, you never have issues with the beamer, as the shared screen is projected directly.

Con: Online instruction strongly relies on good Internet connection, which tends to disadvantage students who are already disadvantaged. A lot of students told me that keeping the motivation going is much harder with online instruction. Communication online is generally harder than live communication.

When we had to urgently switch to fully online teaching due to the pandemic, we adapted our teaching on the go, and not everything went smoothly to say the least. Exams in particular were difficult to adapt, and our students had much better results than usual. On the other hand, they seem to have learnt much less.

Now, note that I am not talking about properly prepared online classes. We didn't have the time (and still don't) to do those :smiley:

Well, I guess I got better at online communication, but it's quite difficult to tell, as we were never left the time to deeply analyze the impact of the switch online.

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  1. Everything is back to "normal" this semester for me and it's much much better for both teaching for student success (so far at least). I appreciate being in the classroom, seeing the students, getting their reactions. The students seem to be doing better and are attending class more.
  2. The big pro in online instruction is accessibility. Better for students far from campus, or who are sick, or have any other challenge in getting to class. The con is everything else: students pay attention less, it's harder to teach things, you can't easily work together, etc.
  3. The pandemic led to us creating a full curriculum of videos for the entire content of our course. You can see them here. We now use these comprehensively in our course and have moved to a "flipped classroom" model. @mflatt's blog post about this (pre-pandemic) has some good thoughts as well: Unclosed Parenthesis: I Flipped a Class, and I Liked It
  4. You can see the course material here: C211/H211: Introduction to Computer Science
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Many thanks for the reminder of the pointer to @mflatt's blog post; I just re-read it, and I think it makes a lot more sense to me now than it did back in 2013.