Online US History fails to prove worthwhile

There is a little known PUSD class, often overlooked on the bottom right corner of the course selection list: Online U.S. History.

Theoretically, the class offers many benefits. It allocates more space in your schedule to take classes you find more interesting, completes credits for seniors who need to retake the course to graduate, it’s good for preparing for online courses in college, the list goes on.

The greatest part of this hidden gem is that the curriculum is the same as a regular U.S. history class, with the only stated difference being the online format, so enrolled students don’t even have to go to a physical class everyday. You take tests and turn in homework assignments through MyConnect, conveniently one click away from the unlimited resource that is Google.

At first, it seemed like the perfect class for me. I didn’t want to sit through a regular history class and write the junior paper. Instead, I wanted space in my schedule to take Photography. I thought Online U.S. History would help me cope with my overall dislike for history as a subject, but, ironically enough, the class’ online format and lack of supervision has made me feel like my knowledge of basic U.S. history has been compromised.

The fundamental nature of an online course is what makes it difficult for students to learn on their own account. In the three or so months that I’ve been enrolled in the course’s trimester system, Online U.S. History has failed to provide me with the same level of education that my peers receive in a physical classroom. Students in regular classes  have tools for learning such as class discussions, presentations, and assessments that truly test knowledge, not memorization. On the other hand, students in the online course are stuck trying to learn the curriculum equipped with nothing but their laptops.

The virtual class keeps us busy by assigning two relatively long but easy fill-in-the-blank assignments every night. Because it’s an online class and not a part of Westview’s typical 4×4 system, students usually relegate the assignments to the backs of their minds, at the end of their to-do lists. It’s easy to put the homework off until the last minute because every single one of the answers can be found on Quizlet or Yahoo Answers.

With these resources at our fingertips, nobody goes to the actual textbook for information. Although students could be motivated to proactively learn the material if the class issued tests with original questions, people are instead bound to look up the answers online since it’s an online class.

Because of how extremely easy it is to look up information and pop out an answer, I can say with 100 percent confidence that I’m learning almost nothing about history. I mix up my Booker T. Washingtons and my W.E.B. DuBois. I can’t tell the difference between Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson’s impact on America during the early 1900s (which, I assume, is when they were in office, I’m not really sure). I felt the true extent of how severely the online class failed me when my friend asked me one day what Plessy v. Ferguson, a significant court case during the segregation era, was, and I couldn’t answer.

Every day the online history teacher shoves as many Google-able assignments at us as possible, not really checking if we fully absorb the material. Maybe the worst (and best) part is that the grades I receive don’t reflect my understanding of the material at all. I skate through homework assignments and tests with online resources at my fingertips, retaining nothing yet getting 100s on all of my homework.

But at what cost?

As much as I hate to admit it, history is a required and integral part of a student’s education. Students who take Online U.S. History and Online World History should still be taught properly, not left to independently figure out the intricacies of the U.S’s involvement in World War I through Google. If learning history was that simple, then history would not have a place in  classrooms anymore. Online U.S. History is equivalent to a repetitive activity, which is not the way a subject should be taught. We fulfill our course requirement, but we don’t fulfill our knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong: online classes are an amazing resource for those who need the credits to make up a course, or for someone trying to prioritize other classes to further their academic career. I’m still indebted to Online U.S. History for giving me space in my schedule to take Photography, and skipping the junior paper isn’t something I take for granted. But at the end of the day, I’m only getting a couple Quizlet homework assignments to complete every night. I’m getting 100 percents on concepts I don’t understand. I’m getting a temporary fix as a history education.

I know in 10 years when the Cold War comes up in some adult conversation and I think that’s the war that was caused by really cold winters, I’ll regret not taking a real U.S. history class.