Virtual Classrooms Taking Away Vital Interaction?

ARKANSAS STATE UNVERSITY(KAIT) -- If you want news instantly, you go, if you want to learn, all you have to do is log on. Arkansas State University has become part of the trend of colleges using technology to do the teaching.

Students from all over the world are signing up for on-line courses offered at ASU cutting the commute to Jonesboro...but not everyone is on board with the idea of going cyber.

One ASU student says virtual classes are taking away the vital classroom interaction that's the core of the college experience, but proponents of the courses say its progress moving forward.

"I am totally against on-line classes because college is supposed to promote individuality and social growth but I think online classes really inhibit that," said ASU Senior Skylar Mays.

Mays say logging on to learn isn't what he came to college for.  The criminology major is taking two classes in cyber space this semester...a learning method he's not exactly thrilled with.

"It really just inhibits professionalism as well. Because there's no interaction between the professor and the students themselves," said Mays.

But Mays might be in the minority as the online community continues to grow. During the 206-2007 school year, almost 1800 students at Arkansas State University were enrolled in some kind of web based instruction. By the year 2008, that number had jumped by almost 50%.

"I'm predicting a 50-60% increase again in students just based on working with the other professor getting their courses online," said instructor Henry Torres, "We will have a significant increase this next year."

Torres is the Director for Learning Technologies.  He has 78 students in two online classes this semester.

"I think the communication is defiantly a big difference, one of the factors. Another one might be the motivation for the student. Online students need to be a little bit more prepared and motivated to get their work done," said Torres.

But critics like Mays believe the bottom line could be universities financial gain.

"The university is like any other capitalistic system; they are here to make money. You can double the number of people online that you can put in a classroom. So it helps ASU financially, but it really hurts the student," said Mays.

There are 234 courses ranging in a variety of one, two and three hour classes offered at ASU.