Students Respond to Online Classes

The urge for new innovations in online community and social media at the University of Florida comes partially from the distaste that some students have with their online courses.

"I sort of fell victim to the expectation that online classes are not as hard as real classes," said Domenic Durante, a father of two who also works full-time, said.

"I hadn't slotted a lot of time for those classes and it turned out to be more time than I had planned for. Not only that, but it was stuff that I didn't feel excited about."

Forum Malaise

In addition to the course subject matter not being that engaging, Domenic said that the forums and interactions between the students and the teacher were also not engaging.

"You had to do mandatory forum responses that I felt turned out to be stilted conversations," Domenic said. "They were forced and they weren't that eloquent."

A large part of this was because the interactions were not personalized, Domenic said. Students in the class had been taking courses together previously and thus had a rapport built up.

Domenic had a chance to take a look at Purlieu, the new system that the College of Education has designed, but he was still skeptical.

"I think with the new social tools in Purlieu, it might be better," Domenic said. "Although if I still don't know the people in my class, am I likely to extend out into a community with them? That's the million dollar question."

Good Content & Poor Interaction

Another student taking online courses had a less than enthusiastic reaction to the regular version of online courses without social media.

"The content was good, it gave me a lot of background information," said Jason Neely, a third year doctoral student. "However, I was hoping for more interaction."

Jason said that the forum responses were not very sincere. The conversations on the forums would come across very stilted and formal.

Jason said he thinks that the success of the social tools in Purlieu will reside in whether students actually use them for their intended purpose.

"Hopefully the social tools in Purlieu will give students the chance to learn in that informal capacity," Jason said.

Glasses on computer "Showing off is the perfect way to describe it. People would post these little mini-theses that I felt like was a lot of filling up space. I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of wrestling with the ideas in their responses." - Jason Neely, third-year doctoral student.