In today’s day and age, online classes are becoming more and more common. I’ve taken a winter online class, an online class during the semester, and I’m taking another online class right now. After the first one over winter break, I swore that I would never take another one. But it just winds up being so convenient with a music-major schedule to not have to show up for a class in person. So what should you really know about taking online classes?
- They require a lot of self-motivation. There is (usually) no designated class time. You have deadlines, but they’re sometimes all at the end of the semester, or at least at the end of the week. There’s no professor watching over your shoulder to make sure you’re actually doing all the reading or listening to all the lectures. You’re pretty much on your own. That can be a really freeing experience, or it can wind up completely backfiring on you. I usually do okay with keeping on top of things, but I’ve known people who’ve had to withdraw from classes because they were so far behind it was impossible to catch up.
- Sometimes, they don’t feel like school. I took my winter online course in my pajamas. Seriously, I don’t think I ever wore a pair of jeans when I was doing homework for that class. It’s definitely more comfortable, but it didn’t really put me in a school mindset. I’m lucky that I can focus whenever the time calls for it, but I know some people may find that to be a major disadvantage.
- They can be hit or miss on the workload. One of my online classes had almost no actual work, just reading and some small quizzes you could take as many times as you needed, as well as three papers (even then, they were only about two pages apiece). On the other hand, my online English class had something due three times a week, which were usually dependent on the work my classmates had done – even though some of them had accomplished nothing. I feel as if I’ve had the two ends of the spectrum, and my current class happily falls somewhere right in the middle. But unless you check out the reviews for that particular class with that specific professor, you might be taking a serious gamble.
- The time commitment can be a gamble. Depending on the kind of class you’re taking online, they can be a definite time-suck. One of my online classes felt like I was spending more time on my work than if I would have had it in-person for three hours a week with homework. On the other hand, some classes can just be something that slides easily into your schedule without any juggling on your part. That’s another thing to ask fellow students about or consult online review resources. That can be a major drag about a class, when the time commitment is insane!
- Interaction can be an issue. In my winter course, I never really interacted with another student. In my English, I interacted with the same few people every time. In my current class, I ‘interact’ with people through a forum, but there’s really not much actual discussion. It can be annoying for people who really like to socialize and be surrounded by others, so that may not be the best course of action if you know you need to be around others.
All in all, I think online classes really have their place and can be extremely useful. I know I’ll probably take a few more while I’m here at IUP, and I hope they lean towards the better end of the spectrum.