Is the Internet a brave new opportunity in education? A distance-learning professor at Iowa State University says yes and no. Mary Wiedenhoft teaches a graduate agronomy course via the Internet to students in every part of the U-S.She says her on-line students are all professionals, work full-time, have families, live somewhere else and can’t come to Ames to study. Wiedenhoeft teaches the course with online communications and a CD-ROM sent to each student, but she still feels that they’re still missing something.She says they’re missing face-to-face interaction with faculty and their colleagues, like hanging out and talking that chat rooms and email can’t replace. The professor also feels at times she’s missing something by not looking at a classroom full of students.Except for a picture, she never meets students or hears their voices, and she says that’s it’s hard for teachers who favor learning in a social environment. She doesn’t think distance education would be good for an undergraduate program because students mature and develop a lot in those years. The masters-level students she teaches are older, but even at that level interacting with other people is important. Wiedenhoeft says teachers try to compensate for that impersonal distance with good technology and innovative approaches to learning.
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