Pros of Remote Participation:
- Flexibility — If you’re a morning person, do your classes/tests/etc. in the morning! If you’re more of a night owl, you can do that, too. Plus, you don’t have to miss class for traveling.
- Test Stress — A lot of classes might change the formats of tests because they will not be confined by normal class time restrictions. If you're someone who is stressed by a testing environment, this is probably good for you!
- Every day is pajama day — This is not that big of a benefit and is technically true of any typical day, but you gotta’ keep it light.
Cons of Remote Participation:
- Accountability — Mainly if lectures are recorded, it is very easy to simply not watch them.
- Make plans to watch lectures with a friend in that class at a specific time (kind of like a workout buddy) and stick to your schedule.
- Educator Accessibility — It can be hard to ask questions in class, especially if lectures are pre-recorded.
- Write down questions as you have them and email your prof right after the lecture.
- Utilize virtual office hours!
- Distractions — It can be REALLY easy to zone out or get distracted by stuff other than lecture when you’re not physically in the space.
- Designate a space. If you’re at home, make the kitchen table, dining room table, living room, or even a bedroom (not recommended—too many distractions) a dedicated school zone.
- Give your phone to someone else or put it in a different room while you’re in class.
Many of your classes will require you to attend them and participate in real-time. Some, however, may not. So, Nikki is right: while you do have more flexibility, you become more accountable, too.
With asynchronous classes, you have more flexibility
Are you going to attend classes at the time they are regularly scheduled (time zone restrictions apply)? Are you going to wait until later and play the recorded lecture when you feel most energized (hopefully, that is at some point in the same day the lecture was given)? Or binge-watch the lectures over the weekend? Well, these are all options, but not all good. Binge-watching may only work if you are well-versed in the material and never need to ask questions. In some ways, the lectures serve as great recaps. Waiting to watch lectures towards the end of the day is tricky, too, as there is too much room for activities and chance; some days, you never know what will come up next.
Whether the lecture is live or recorded, there’s a lot to be said for listening to the lecture at the same time the course is usually offered. Why is this beneficial? For one thing, it helps give structure to your day if you stick to your “normal” schedule. Listening to a lecture when your professor expects you to be hearing it also gives you more time to think about and analyze the material. If you miss or delay listening to recorded lectures, you lose out on time to ask questions or to work through the confusion. More often than not, you might end up spending more time trying to contact the professor, classmates, or rereading textbook chapters and PowerPoints in search for answers and clarity regarding questions no longer relevant. Then you have to catch up on the material currently being covered, and the cycle never ends.
Synchronous classes come with more accountability
Are you going to skip classes? Or turn off your video and log in while performing other tasks? (note that your professor may not allow this!) Although it is easier now since you are not in class physically, are you going to resist the urge to surf the internet while attending class virtually?
Even if you’re doing something that feels virtuous (like tracking down a reference your professor made), as opposed to checking your social media feeds, surfing during class likely isn’t a good choice. Quoting Lang and Chrzan (2015), Jeong and Hwang (2016) defined media multitasking or dual-tasking as “performing two or more tasks simultaneously, one of which involves media use” (p. 599). Although this high level of perceived production may feel good, that is all it is—a feeling, attitudinal. After performing a meta-analysis of 49 studies, Jeong and Hwang (2016) found that media multitasking does not increase cognition; instead, it decreases cognition. Jeong and Hwang (2016) stated: “Previous research has shown that multitasking reduces central processing and increases peripheral processing, and thus reduces the amount of attention (e.g., Barden & Petty, 2008), interest (Conard & Marsh, 2014), comprehension (Jeong & Hwang, 2012), recall (Zhang, Jeong, & Fishbein, 2010), and task performance (Armstrong & Chung, 2000)” (p. 601).