Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Online Class Experience

This is an essay that I wrote for my mid-term assignment for a writing class that I took. The class was an online class. I received an A for this assignment and for the class.

Education is an important part of growing. Adults who decide to further their education do not always have the time to attend an on-campus class, so the availability of online classes is an asset to them. The decision by Joliet Junior College to offer online classes had a positive effect on adult learners as well as other full-time or non-traditional students. The ability to take a class from home made a dramatic difference in the decisions that many adults made regarding their education advancements. Because of the online classes, many adults were able to complete degree programs that were otherwise out of their reach because of time and/or distance constraints.

The decision to take an online class is an easy one to make, but a difficult one to carry out. Participating in a classroom setting almost forces the student to connect with his classmates and instructor through the use of discussions and classroom activities. A student taking an online class does not have that “personal” connection with the other students in the classroom, or with the instructor. It takes a lot of discipline to be successful in an online course, mainly the ambition to complete the assigned work in a timely fashion, and to stay on track. Many times, students that are in an online class will let everything go until the last minute, then rush to get it done. Oftentimes this haste leads to sloppy work or an assignment that does not follow the guidelines set forth by the instructor. The ability to stay on track can be an immense disadvantage to a student that is not diligent in completing assignments on time. Also, a student needs to be able to comprehend the instructions for the work that is assigned so that he fully understands what is expected of him or her. In a classroom setting, there are often many students who have questions, and a timid student will hear the answer to his question through someone else having asked the same question. In an online class, the student does not know what questions are being asked by other students unless they are posted in the discussion board. Many students taking online classes prefer to contact the instructor privately through email when they have questions. Unless the questions are asked in an open chat or on a discussion board, the answers will usually not be made available for the others in the class who might be having the same problems.

My decision to take an online class was based on several issues. I work full-time and do not have enough energy or time to take a class in the evening, especially if it is more than one night a week. I already take one class in the evening, one night a week, so another evening class would really have pushed me to my limit. The online class experience is not new to me; I have taken other online classes and have been very successful in them. I have a lot of ambition for succeeding in school, and I can appreciate what an education means to my future. I have seen a lot of older adults returning to school and doing better than they did in high school, a testament to maturity and stability in life. The online class allows me to work on my assignments at my leisure, keeping careful watch on the due dates. I sometimes have free time at work, and I can work on assignments there also. At home there can be many distractions that get in the way of my writing, so I often take my laptop into the bedroom, close the door, and work in the solitude of my room. My family knows that when the door is closed, I am working and cannot be disturbed. I am lucky that I have the support of my family; without it, I would not be able to succeed in school. Family support is important to any student, but especially to one taking online or distance education classes. They usually have more work to complete at home, and peace and quiet along with privacy are important for success.

Although I do prefer a classroom experience, the online experiences that I have had have been very enlightening. The instructors have been trained to conduct an online class because there are many differences in the way the assignments are handled as opposed to a classroom setting. In a classroom setting, the students always have the ability to ask a question as the assignment is being discussed. In an online class, questions usually have to be emailed, and depending upon the schedule of the instructor, it may be a day or two before the student gets an answer. In a deadline situation, this delay can be disastrous, but that is just one more reason that a student has to be diligent in keeping up with his assignments. A student in a classroom setting has the advantage of discussing the topic at hand with his classmates and instructor in a real-time setting. Hearing the opinions of others sometimes helps to drive the point home on subjects that are a bit confusing. Online classes offer discussion boards and virtual chat, but these are not always conducive to group discussions because of the different schedules of everyone involved. Chat can be distracting and confusing, especially when there are many participants. Discussion boards are somewhat helpful but not the same as a real-time discussion. Classroom settings also offer the ability for the class to participate in role-playing; and depending on the subject, this can be very beneficial to the learning process.

Online classes will probably be my choice for my future classes. Unfortunately, not all classes are offered online, so there will be times that I will have to take an on-campus class. Either way, I know that I am getting the best educational experience, and as long as I am ambitious and work hard, I will succeed.