Initially, I was very concerned about the lack of face-to-face contact that I have enjoyed for many years while teaching in a conventional classroom. My fears disappeared very quickly as I discovered that I actually established a closer personal relationship with each individual student in my virtual class. I find that students open up to me through their homework submissions. Writing to another person is a very intimate experience, and because students today are so accustomed to sharing themselves with others through virtual media, they seem to be very comfortable sharing with me in our Counseling class. I read every word that students write to me, and I respond as quickly as possible to their entries. I know my students as individuals far better than I have experienced in a conventional classroom.
The biggest challenge for me is the higher dropout rate in virtual classrooms. I have always maintained a high retention rate in conventional classes, and I am frustrated when online students drop. I believe that they think that online classes will be “easier,” and they register for online classes unprepared for the work that is required. On the plus side, however, the students who do remain in the online classes perform at a higher rate of success on average than those in my conventional classes.
I love it when my online students make it a point to schedule an appointment with me and to come to my office for a personal visit. It is fun to connect the face with a name that I know so well. A recent memorable experience was when a couple that was in the same online class came to visit me in person at my office. They announced that they were engaged and were moving out of the area. They brought a small gift to me and thanked me for helping them to feel more successful in college.
Pauline Clark is a licensed academic, personal and career counselor who is also certified in drug and alcohol counseling. In addition to being a faculty member in the WVC Counseling Department, Pauline is a cellist with the Winchester Orchestra and West Valley Symphony.