A stroll on campus

Can an online class actually "replace" an in-person class?

When USC announced that they would be moving our learning environment from in-person classes to online, I wasn't sure what to expect. 

June 22, 2020
• by
Sarah Park

Perhaps in ten years’ time, students, professors and staff will all look back on 2020 as the “Year of the Changing Classroom!”

As a student in the Master of Science Marketing Program at USC Marshall, I, along with my entire cohort, underwent a massive change in education delivery: all of our classes moved from on-campus to online. Honestly, I first met the news with a great deal of skepticism. How can my school provide the same learning environment online? How will we be able to access the bounty of resources available at Marshall? Can an online class actually “replace” an in-person class?

It’s now been four weeks since the summer semester began, and I can confidently say my skepticism has vanished. Although I personally still prefer an in-person experience, our professors in the MS in Marketing program have certainly raised the “online learning bar” to new heights. Furthermore, many of my classmates, are relieved that we can continue to learn, participate in class, and mingle with classmates in this new virtual format.

It wasn’t just us students who have had to adjust to this new way of learning, but our professors have had to adjust to a new way of teaching as well. MS in Marketing Academic & Program Director, Dr. Diane Badame said, “Moving to the online format was challenging; but it’s all about embracing technology and staying true to the practice of customer centricity. I put myself in my students’ shoes: what would I want in a class? Engagement, involvement. Thankfully, we have the technological tools to fully engage and the right combination of incredible guest speakers from diverse industries, current case studies, discussion boards, in-class polling, three to four break out rooms per class, and an active chat room.”

There are many benefits to online learning that I had not realized before experiencing it. Here are just a few ways that the online learning environment has benefited my education:

  • Many of us students are employed, and I used to have to sit in an hour of traffic to work my way across Los Angeles to get to campus. Being able to hop online when it’s time to start class has made my day much less hectic and given me hours of time back. 
  • My professors have done a great job with learning all the features that Zoom has to offer and they are fully utilizing these tools throughout class to create an engaging environment. The chat function and breakout rooms on Zoom have been a great addition to the online learning environment.
  • I have actually witnessed more participation – that’s right – MORE participation from students throughout class. The breakout rooms specifically have allowed me to have interactions with many more students in class, from all different programs at USC, who I wouldn’t normally have been able to have discussions with. It’s been great getting to know and work with so many different students from all over the world.

A typical class looks like:

  • Our professors assign short assignments and videos to watch prior to class to ensure that everyone is prepared and ready to participate in class.
  • We begin class with our “order of the day” which is where students come up with two questions and answers related to the learning outcomes of the topic or cases covered during each class session.
  • Often, we will have a guest speaker join Guest Speaker, Ryan Scott from Shadowwhich is always a treat. These guest speakers are from all different industries and take time out of their busy schedules to share their knowledge from many years of experience with us. Some recent guest speakers included Senior Director of Marketing, Ryan Scott, from Shadow, the cloud gaming service, and the Director of Research of FMI – The Food Industry Association, Steve Markenson.
  • The lectures include many group discussions and multiple breakout rooms. This format creates an entertaining, engaging, and informative environment where time flies! Before you know it, the class is over, and I’ve gained new skills and learned new concepts that I can apply to real world business situations scenarios.
  • Afterwards, the recording of the class and PowerPoint slides are made available in case you would like to go back and review anything again.

We are still awaiting additional details about how the hybrid online/in-person classes will be conducted for Fall. In the meantime, we are very happy with the education we are receiving, and we are looking forward to when we can safely return to campus.

FIGHT ON, fellow Trojans!