Online Business Courses Professor
Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA
Traditional and online business courses professor Joyce Staples has 24 years experience in the education realm. Currently she teaches Business Communications, Web Communications and Administrative Office Management at Bellevue College in Washington State.
Her experiences in the administrative corporate world, the health care industry and as a graphic artist add depth and insight to her classes in business communications and administrative support. She also develops curriculum and continues to teach seminars for Bellevue College's Continuing Education professional technical programs and Business Training Institute. Joyce has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Education from Brigham Young University.
What types of students does online education work best for?
Online students are those who desire flexible schedules because of transportation difficulties, conflicting work schedules, distance from campus, childcare responsibilities, health challenges or lack of funds for gas and public transportation. Also, students (young and old) who function well independently and who have self-discipline do well in online business courses.
What types of classes seem to work best online?
Classes that are computational in nature work well online. Classes where the learning is self-paced, as in keyboarding and software applications, work well online. Classes requiring memorization, such as medical terminology, also work well online. Now, things are changing. With advances in technology, many other types of classes adapt well online.
Is there a class you would absolutely not teach online?
Perhaps a speech class, because speaking in front of a live audience is different than speaking in front of a Web cam. The real-world skill of face-to-face presentation is a desirable skill in the workplace, whether you're conducting a meeting or addressing 200 people. A student's confidence grows when they give live presentations.
How did you adjust from teaching in a classroom to the online format?
To create an online environment that resembles a face-to-face environment requires creativity, knowledge and planning. Instructors realize that it's not possible to have the same energy as can be experienced in a classroom of live learners. However, they work long hours to create engaging environments—doing the best they can with discussion boards, chat features, audio and visual presentations, podcasts and Web resources.
What does online education do better than traditional school?
Online courses give students experience using technology and other tools that might not be used in a traditional classroom. Although the social interaction is limited, students learn how to relate to others they have not met personally, which is a useful skill. They also learn how to be civil and respectful online as well as face-to-face. Finally, they have to learn to communicate their thoughts and ask questions in writing rather than speaking. I do not believe that online education does anything better than traditional classrooms; I think online instruction is simply different, and some of that is helpful.
What are your thoughts on the future of online education vs. campus classes?
In order to prepare students adequately for the working world, I hope online education does not fully replace traditional classroom learning. Both styles have value. I encourage learners to take advantage of both. Certainly distance learning is now the trend, and technology has made online learning meaningful and engaging. However, with the rise of uncivil behavior in the workplace (and everywhere), we cannot underestimate the value of strengthening our interpersonal skills in traditional, collaborative and engaging classrooms. A classroom of eager learners, talking and problem-solving together, mirrors a real-world environment.
Do social media venues, such as Twitter or Facebook, make online education networking easier for students?
Social media and social networking is here to stay. All educators, whether teaching online or traditional courses, must infuse social media into their assignments and teaching strategies. Would a student rather look at a PowerPoint presentation on a class website or watch an expert give a lecture on YouTube? No question. It's real, it's growing and it's constantly changing. In addition, educators can help students see how businesses and organizations are using social media to manage relationships, market products and services, improve customer relations and build working communities. Again, embrace social media by infusing it into assignments.
Do students seem to participate more actively online or in the classroom?
Students who are inclined to participate in the classroom will usually participate just as actively in online environments. With online discussion boards, students can be assigned to post their thoughts and respond to other students. Interestingly enough, we find that when discussion assignments are not required (graded), very few students participate. In some traditional courses, classroom discussion is limited to those who choose to raise their hand. In huge lecture courses, discussion might not occur at all. So some are more comfortable "talking" online (when required) and yet they aren't comfortable speaking in front of others. These students are of course more comfortable in online environments. Does this help prepare them for the real world? That's a good question.
I'd like to hear more about your personal experiences. Do you enjoy teaching online?
The success of an online class depends on one thing: the quality of the instructor. Teaching effectively online is more time-consuming—educators agree. We know that building online learning environments, engaging class members with different learning styles, providing individual feedback, monitoring all discussions, grading online documents, infusing social media, dealing with struggling students, responding to students promptly, managing teamwork online, researching, etc., is just time consuming!
So why do we teach online? Our institutions require it, it's revenue for them—and we have flexibility. If we love teaching, we'll enjoy both environments. With my online business courses, I plan my own work schedule, which allows me the freedom to work elsewhere, teach while traveling, take classes, spend time with family or go to the gym. Flexibility!
Do you foresee programs for future teachers that focus exclusively on online instruction?
Online degrees and certificate programs are here to stay. Even online high schools are now gaining in popularity. Do online degrees equip students with the knowledge and experience they need to compete in this job market? This is still being hotly debated. Quality of education seems to be at the core of this discussion.
What tip would you give a student considering online education for the first time?
I have asked my online students to answer this question. What do they say?
- Successful online students must have personal discipline, organization skills and time management skills.
- Because all online environments are different, students need to be resourceful, be able to "figure things out on their own," and ask questions when they feel "stuck."
- If needed, students should arrange a meeting with the instructor, so they can connect personally with a face.
- Students cannot be procrastinators and excuse-givers. Educators have little tolerance for this behavior, and working professionals have no tolerance whatever.
- Successful online students aren't lazy about learning. They want to learn because they want a job.