These inside perspectives may help with your decision
Throughout the pandemic, every Concordian has had a glimpse into the world of online education. The hybrid format has facilitated our learning for the past two years, and allowed us to pursue our degrees in a time where the rest of our lives were put on hold. Zoom classes introduced many of us to the practice of at-home learning, and some say they don’t want this to stop.
As classes increasingly return to on-campus learning, students looking to study from home can add eConcordia courses to their Summer and Fall 2022 schedule.
Since its establishment in 2000, eConcordia has developed more than 125 courses and received more than 400,000 registrations. “I think the system is great,” said graduate student and teaching assistant Rhea Romero-Giuliana. “Not many universities offer these fully online courses, and for a lot of students, it eases scheduling restrictions, makes things a little bit easier, and the courses are more self-paced.”
Romero-Giuliana has completed five eConcordia courses throughout her undergraduate studies at Concordia, and has also been a teaching assistant for two courses while pursuing her masters in theological studies. With a total of seven eConcordia courses under her belt, she has acquired a balanced experience from both sides of the system.
Although her experiences with eConcordia have been positive, she explained that there is a noticeable lack of cohesion between each course. While she agreed that the eConcordia format accounts for many students' needs and concerns, she maintained that the platform’s overall lack of continuity can create learning barriers for students. “There’s no real [...] consistency with how the websites are run for each eConcordia course,” she said, “every single class has a different way the website is navigated.”
“Not many universities offer these fully online courses, and for a lot of students, it eases scheduling restrictions, makes things a little bit easier, and the courses are more self-paced.” — Rhea Romero-Giuliana
While agreeing that the lack of consistency is a known issue, professor Saul Carliner said, “I think that mirrors what you’re going to see in the classroom.” Carliner is a professor in the department of education, and he has been involved with eConcordia for over a decade. He explained that despite its shortcomings, a tremendous investment of thought goes into the creation of eConcordia courses. Each course involves the work of instructional designers, web developers, programmers, video producers, multimedia designers and Concordia faculty members. The design of each course is also determined by surveys, focus groups and other kinds of data collection that are conducted to maximize student accessibility and efficiency.
According to Carliner, these fluctuations are also largely due to academic freedom and the individual style of each professor. “They try to put some uniformity in there, but to be really honest, every e-learning platform struggles with this issue,” Carliner said. “If you make them all uniform, you kill anything that’s unique about the courses. Or if you make them all unique, every student needs to acclimate to each course.”
Aside from this primary complaint, many students enjoy eConcordia’s online platform. “If I had the option of [studying] completely online, I would take it,” said Cemre Naz. Naz is a second year student, completing her bachelor of arts in honours psychology with a minor in education. Despite describing her first eConcordia class as a nightmare, her overall experience has been successful.
“I think eConcordia is an amazing way to learn, especially for people who have a long trek to get to and from school.” — Gabrien Gauthier
In her first course, Naz said that she had a hard time learning anything. She attributed this to the fact that the video lessons didn’t provide enough context to understand the textbook, or to pass the class. She also explained that the professor wasn’t accessible. “We were sent contacts for tutoring, and there wasn’t much teaching assistant or professor support,” Naz said.
However, Naz is currently enrolled in EDUC 270: Educational Communication, and said, “this class is better structured than any of my other courses at Concordia.” She has also enrolled in three more eConcordia courses for the upcoming semester.
Gabrien Gauthier is another student that shares an appreciation for this virtual space. Although this is his first semester pursuing a bachelor of arts in translation, he has exclusively enrolled in eConcordia courses thus far. “I think eConcordia is an amazing way to learn, especially for people who have a long trek to get to and from school.” In addition to balancing two jobs, Gauthier agreed that having the flexibility of an online schedule is an asset to his education.
Across the board, students that enroll in these courses come to understand the amount of work that goes into them, and the level of dedication that is required to succeed. “There’s often a misconception that an online course is easier by default, but I think in a lot of ways it’s actually more difficult because so much of that responsibility is on you as a student,” Romero-Giuliana said.
To promote and encourage student success with eConcordia courses, Romero-Giuliana and Carliner stress the importance of getting in contact with your professor and teaching assistant as soon as possible. In online courses, making yourself known and opening the lines of communication is key. Checking the announcements and discussion forums on a regular basis should also be a priority, as this is the primary line of connection by which students are kept informed.
Romero-Giuliana said that as long as students account for mishaps and don’t neglect their online coursework, their success rates are typically high. “I would recommend eConcordia courses to anyone that wants to take them,” she said. “I think that they’re really interesting and fun and they push you to be an independent learner and student.”