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Today's blog is by Rachel Brockway, the marketing and resource development manager for Scottsdale Leadership.  She also teaches social media and event marketing courses at Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University and technology courses at Scottsdale Community College

Brockway currently serves as the chair for the Anne Rita Monahan Foundation for Ovarian Cancer’s Tea for Teal; is a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Capital Override Oversight Committee; and volunteers with the marketing committee of Girls on the Run of Maricopa County.


I had coffee with Abbie Fink about nine months ago and we had some great discussion around communication, technology and online classes. At the time I was teaching at Grand Canyon University online and she was teaching Arizona State University online. We brainstormed and discussed different ideas and challenges we had encountered while teaching online. One of the reoccurring themes was how do you communicate with the students if they can’t see you. I am a firm believer in the fact that good communication with online education can work with the right tools.

Fast forward a few months later and Abbie asked me to co-teach a class with her at ASU, and I was honored. One because it is well… Abbie …. And second because ASU is my alma mater (Go Sun Devils)!

But perception out there is that online classes are not as hard as a face-to-face (F2F) class, communication is difficult and there is not the chance for a personal connection. I think all three of these perceptions are false.

To do well in an online class you have to be motivated. There is not an instructor telling you to review the weekly lecture or do your “homework.” I think this is the same for a F2F class as well. You have to be motivated to do well in college. Period. Online classes are the same as F2F classes in what you can learn- you will get out of them what you put in.

You can make a personal connection in on online class. Some examples of ways to do this would be providing video, phone and “office” hours and providing immediate and clear feedback. Before our class started Abbie and I got together and recorded an introduction video for our class. We then had the students record (Yes- with video) an introduction video back.  Much to my surprise not one of the students (in both sections that we taught) was unable to complete the task. In fact, the majority of the students identified this as one of their favorite ways to communicate and connect with us and each other.

I am not going to claim that there are not challenges to communication that occur with online classes. They do exist. But they also exist in face-to-face settings as well.

Technology, communication and online learning are what you make of them.

Stephanie Lough
Stephanie Lough
A former HMA Public Relations employee.


  1. Billie Walls says:

    I had never thought of online classes in this way. It makes sense to me.

  2. Joy says:

    I’m currently in my senior year at ASU. I took classes for my Associates on campus and have taken all online classes for the last two years. I think the main thing a lot of instructors insist on is how much more work an online class is – whether it be through self-discipline or because of the fact that many online classes are accelerated. However, despite what I’ve experienced, I think there’s an attitude that achieving an online degree is “less than” the real deal. I’ve even found myself judging others who attend online colleges….I rank credibility of a for-profit college, large university, or a college you see on TV at 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. Anybody else?

    Technology has permitted so many possibilities that the online class is far more interactive and personable than they were only 5 years ago. One of my current instructors, has led about 5 of my classes. Although they are difficult, I’ve found that these are my favorite classes as she incorporates different aspects which could be missing in the F2F class. We do plenty of discussion boards, study groups via skype are encouraged, there are videos, power points, and each week, she checks in with a new video discussing what we’d learned and what she read about in our discussion boards. This interaction definitely helps with retention of material and makes the class fun!

    However, I completely agree with the bottom line. You HAVE to WANT to be successful in order for you to achieve it – this is not only true in the classroom, but also in LIFE!

  3. Some classes are more appropriate than others for on-line settings. My son actually had a speech class on-line. How’s that work?

    • Stephanie Lough says:

      I actually took some data collecting class that was all about using excel taught over ASUtv. I liked that I could DVR the show, but I did not like the one-way communication and “watch and learn” style. Needless to say, I’m not too excel savvy.

  4. Patricia Slocum says:

    To all,
    Nice blog. good information. I like the way that you pointed out that F2F would seem more credible, yet really is not. I also liked that you assessed strenghts of interaction in the online classes and remarked about the feedback capabilities. Thank you. Again, nice post.

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