The Daily Gamecock

USC struggles to find balance in virtual learning

Focus should be on content, not speed

With technology expanding by the minute, universities continue to try and balance online material and traditional learning. The University of South Carolina, like many other schools, remains in limbo — pushing the limit of in-classroom customs and nervously entering the uncharted waters of virtual learning.

Some technologies embraced by USC work. Others don’t.
Helpful tip for instructors and students, online grading is a time-saver. To be able to enter a grade into a virtual grade book and then to have your students access it almost simultaneously creates an efficient and convenient new system.

Last semester, USC underwent a change in their operating system. VIP, the website used to access grades, financial information, housing and food expenses, mailbox combinations and registration, was replaced by

The new program came with sleeker lines, transparent visuals and, most prominently, confusion. Registration for Fall 2013 proved difficult for many students who kept finding flaws in the new system.

As it evolves, creates a universal home for many of students and their important information.

Then there’s Blackboard. The teacher­-operated program stores grades, homework assignments, handouts and announcements — all created by the professors themselves. The program, in theory, is helpful to all students and gives teachers a line of communication to the entire class.

The problem lies in the operation of these systems. A schism exists between professors who are Blackboard-crazed and those who hardly use it. Some professors embrace Blackboard as the be-all and end-all: “No you can’t turn that in late. I know I didn’t say it in class, but it was on Blackboard.”
Other teachers prefer to keep students waiting for their grades, handing each assignment back spontaneously throughout the semester, many times after any notes made on the assignment have become obsolete.

There doesn’t seem to be a theme in the teachers who embrace these systems either. It would be easy to blame age or technological experience on their willingness to use the systems created to enhance their teaching and communication with students. But there’s not. Sometimes my youngest teachers simply don’t use Blackboard because they would rather personally email us.

I am not opposed to any means of communication between professors and students, but I wish they could all get together and decide on one. When I want to check what homework is due for the week, I end up checking my syllabus, emails, Blackboard, my planner and notes from class. Multiply by five classes and the time I spend organizing the information from my teachers could be spent finishing the assignment due.

The frustration ensues assignment to assignment. Just because I grew up in a generation that doesn’t know life without computers or cell phones or having information at any minute doesn’t mean I reject traditional learning.

For example, my statistics class is taught in a lecture-style class. The professor generates her own notes and tests and teaches at her own pace. However, the homework assigned for the class is online, solely generated from the textbook, which is used so sparsely in class that most of us didn’t even buy it.

I spend hours decoding the language the book uses to teach our topics by connecting the dots to my teacher’s understandable lectures. Here, technology fails. Here, technology hinders my ability to learn and here, technology slows my process of learning.

As universities linger in limbo, I encourage the push forward to be focused on content, not accessibility. Fast is great, but comprehension is better.