The traditional classroom setting isn't for everyone so some students have turned to the option of taking classes online. 

Online classes at Ball State have become increasingly popular, with around 38.9 percent of students participating in some form of distance or online learning last year, according to collegefactual.com. Over 3,000 students took classes exclusively online. Many of the classes available at Ball State are offered both online and in the traditional classroom setting.

Students say one advantage of online classes is the convenience.

Ball State University has received multiple national rankings and recognitions for their online and distance education programs including: 

  • Leaner Support Program Certification given by Quality Matters (QM), a leading quality assurance organization for online education.
  • Top rankings from U.S. News & World Report each of the five years the publication has ranked online programs. Current rankings include:
    • 11th – graduate education
    • 12th – MBA
    • 23rd – graduate nursing
    • 34th – bachelor's programs
  • The 2014 Excellence in Institution-wide Online Education Award from the Online Learning Consortium.
  • A 2014 Strategic Innovation in Online Education Award for meeting strategic and innovative goals for online education.

To find more information rankings and recognition institution-wide and on specific online programs click here.  

“I think the best advantage to online classes is that you can take them whenever you want,” said Ben Thatcher, a sophomore telecommunications major who is currently taking an online finance class. “They’ll usually give you a lot of time to do assignments, and if you’re busy during the day but have time at night that’s a nice advantage. You can do it anywhere, at any time.”

However, Thatcher explained that his experience was overall a negative one. Last semester, he missed the day of the final for one of his classes.

“It’s my only failed class and it was an online class,” Thatcher said. “If I was in a real class, in person, I would be more responsive to any assignments or tests, or for that instance, a final. It was open for one day, and then I forgot about it, so I failed.”

Garrett Harsh, a freshman telecommunications major, also sees the self motivation and discipline required as a drawback for him personally.

“I’m not really retaining it as well as I would if I was in a classroom setting," Harsh said. "It’s not really my style of learning, and I don’t have the initiative because I don’t have the pressure to really focus on it or study it.”

Sally Brocksen, instructional design and technology consultant at Ball State, has been teaching online courses since 2009. She currently teaches SOC 100 in both an online and traditional classroom environment.

“I don’t think online courses are for everyone,” Brocksen said. “You have to be motivated and disciplined to be a good online student. Like all courses, you get out of online courses what you put into them.”

Online courses often involve reading texts, watching instructional videos and working through projects individually before applying knowledge through online exercises and tests. Though some students may feel that they are distanced from their professor in this style of learning, Brocksen said this is not always the case.

“I think that there is a misconception about online courses that you don’t get to know your students,” she said. “In my experience that has not been true. I might not recognize my students by sight, like I can in my face-to-face courses, but I feel like I know more about their experiences and interests.”

Brocksen also said online courses may offer more learning opportunities for students than in a regular classroom setting.

“In online courses it is difficult for students to ‘hide’ so I feel like my attention is more evenly distributed, whereas in a face-to-face class you tend to focus on those students who speak up,” she said. “The other thing I love about online education is the idea that students are gaining the flexibility they might not have with traditional face to face classes. Online courses opens up all kinds of opportunities for students."

Brockton said overall there are strengths and drawbacks to both online and traditional classes but she is "glad that I get to spend time in both types of classrooms.”