By Joe Lofaro
Richard Griffin’s office is a cross between a library and the lab of a top computer scientist. There are rows of books dealing with accounting and management, a computer setup with several monitors, a keyboard that looks like it is off the set of the new Star Trek movie and a wireless mouse.
From this ominous nest Griffin calls his office on the first floor of the Business Administration Building at UT Martin, he teaches several accounting and management classes online. He’s reached near celebrity status on campus because he has been teaching online since 1998. “It’s amazing,” Griffin says. “There is not a lot of difference between online and the regular classroom. We usually work through a chapter each week and have a quiz, and I ask my classroom students to work through the computerized problems at least once.”
Griffin teaches the class live in the traditional setting and later records video of himself teaching the same material and posts it to Blackboard for the online students. He uses Connect Accounting software that grades the online homework and gives students the correct answer.
Griffin’s online students range in age and purpose. Some are undergraduates trying to finish degrees, and some are working adults who take classes when they can during free time. And the students aren’t just Tennesseans. A recent class included a student in Alaska.
Griffin finds online students like to stay in touch frequently. “The hardest part of teaching online is the correspondence,” he says. “You have to use your cell phone to keep up. It’s like anything else—you learn how to adapt.”
The online classes are beneficial not just for the online students. “The traditional students are going online to get extra help,” Griffin says. “If the students miss class, they can always go online and get the lesson.”
One of the drawbacks Griffin has seen in the online courses is uncharacteristic of the traditional classroom course. “The biggest problem is some students don’t want to watch the recordings. They want to jump in and do the problems,” he says.
Griffin has this advice for students trying to decide whether to take classes in a traditional classroom or online: “If you are not a procrastinator, then the online classes are the way to go.”