Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
When choosing a distance learning school for your studies, one of the questions you will be interested in is, “Are there good instructors at this school?” A big problem with this question is that every student’s definition of “good” is different. Presumably to get a good education you would be wanting instructors who are well qualified in their field, have some experience, present the course in an interesting manner, and can help students when and if they are having problems.
If you have chosen a well-respected college or university, then it is highly probable that the instructors will be well qualified and experienced in their field. You need to remember that even in top rated universities you will find some professors you consider to be excellent and some with whom you are not impressed. Most instructors in colleges and universities really want their students to do well so they try hard to make sure their students succeed. One problem that arises is that students do not always respond well to the same type of instruction. Therefore, one student may do extremely well in a class with a particular instructor whereas another student may do poorly. I think that the most important factor is how much work each individual puts into his learning, regardless of the instructor he has.
It is common practice for students on campus to talk about how they feel about an instructor. That can be helpful if they are discussing important factors such as the feedback given by the instructor or whether they found that he droned on in lectures and put people to sleep easily. If there is an alternate class you can take, then it may be helpful to do that. However, it is possible that you may find the lectures interesting because you have a higher interest in the subject and therefore those lectures will not put you to sleep.
In online learning, you will not be able to get that information as easily from fellow classmates. If you are determined to get the opinions of others you will need to contact friends you make in a class by e-mail to get their opinion or go to your school forum where opinions may be given. There are also websites you can visit where students give their opinions. There is one in particular in which the information is used to make lists of best and worst professors and even best and worst schools based on students’ opinions of their professors. If you do find such information, you should remember that many students give poor evaluations of teachers in classes in which they received poor marks – but you have no idea whether they worked hard in the class, completed assignments or studied for exams. In my opinion, you should not use other people’s opinions about an instructor as a method of determining whether she is a good instructor.
For individual courses, you could sign in to the course to see the syllabus and the first few lessons for the class. If it seems as if you could not possibly work with that instructor, you could perhaps change to a different class. On the other hand you may decide that regardless of your feelings about the instructor, you will be able to do the work and the learning and make the class worthwhile. There are libraries and websites and your student advisor that can help you with your learning if you have an instructor who is not the best. You can also contact the instructor with questions or problems you have and often she will give you all the help you need.
You need to choose a school based on the factors in my previous article “Choosing an Online School”. When you are talking to the school representative, ask about the qualifications and the experience of the instructors for the program in which you are interested. Finally, concentrate on working hard to gain as much knowledge as you can from the course regardless of whether the instructor is excellent or poor. She is most likely somewhere in between those two extremes.