This may be the ultimate in having as many students as possible for a single instructor. The session can vary from recorded lectures to live chatroom sessions where students will submit their questions publicly and the instructor will publicly answer them as they come. The main benefit is that this removes restrictions in time and space for everyone, including the students. They can seek out more convenient time and place for study, a benefit which cannot be ignored. The student can also look at questions, comments, and answers from a large number of people, and he may find some that are very useful. A good on-line instructor can guide students in a carefully paced path of discovery that can greatly enhance understanding of everyone viewing the process.
The drawbacks are pretty obvious as well. There are many limitations to student and instructor interaction, and the time-delay may confuse people in certain situations. The instructor has very little control over what the student is doing, and there is great potential for students to cheat on their attendance, homework, or exams in these setting. Some of the very fine details related to the subject content may be impossible to convey over the internet/media as well; thus many people will leave these classes with incomplete knowledge.
Still, for students who are just getting started, or need only a few tips, this can be a great venue. These classes are great for getting one’s feet wet with the subject matter, often are free or very cheap, and offer immense flexibility to a student’s schedule. It also lets people separated by great distance interact with each other. As long as what the student needs isn’t intense exploration into minute details concerning the subject, which requires close proximity of the instructor or some one-to-one attention, there are many ways these setups can be used productively.
Great variety exists in student-to-instructor ratios in a class, and they all have their uses, advantages, and disadvantages. Even within a single subject course, people may encounter different classroom setups that will have different student-to-instructor ratios. Instead of proclaiming one student-to- instructor ratio as ideal, it is much better to study its strengths and weaknesses, find ways to reduce its weaknesses and enhance its strengths, then properly formulate a ratio according to the needs of the students and restrictions imposed by the situations. As technology advances, there will be more ways to work and study in these setups, cover up some of their weaknesses, and bring about new methods. It is important to flexibly adapt these classroom setups to best accommodate the needs of the students and the society in which they live, remembering that all the setups can be made to be useful and productive.