One thing the StudentAdvisor team has high aspirations for is to level the playing field between the traditional college experience and going to college online. After taking one course last spring, I can tell you first-hand how inaccurate the perceptions of online classes are.
In my first few weeks taking an online class at Kaplan University, I had already learned so much – not just about the subject matter (Intro to Web Development), but about what it’s truly like to be an online student.
Prior to beginning the class, I had heard many of the benefits and challenges to expect, but never had anyone prepared me for the level of interaction I experienced (Myth #1). The graded requirements for my class overall involved participation in a weekly hour-long seminar and chat session, a weekly project, and ongoing participation in our discussion forum. Additionally, my professor held office hours on many days of the week, and made himself fully available via phone, IM, email, and Skype.
Now, the discussion board is not to be underestimated – I had a hard time understanding the requirements at first:
- I must log into the class discussion board at least 3 separate days throughout the week and post something each time.
- On one of those days, I must post my answer to the professor’s weekly question about the material we’re learning. This involves much thought and analysis, and it took some time to compile a clear, meaningful response that might help other members of the class. You can’t just recite what the textbook says; for a full grade, you must apply it to your experiences to really show that you’re grasping the topic.
- I must respond to 2 of my classmates throughout the week for a complete grade. At first, my classmates would respond with a quick sentence congratulating each other on a well-thought out post, but soon enough, polite debates began over some of the material, and questions were asked of each other, similar to a normal discussion that would be held in any brick-and-mortar classroom (Myth #2). The advantage to the discussion board is that you get to write and rewrite your answers before posting them.
Remembering to participate on 3 separate dates was challenging at first; I had to keep track of when I had logged in and posted something, and I can imagine it would be easy to forget this part and then scramble the last 3 days of the Unit week to fulfill the requirements.
For just this one class, I spent at least 3-4 hours a week on the project and participation; doing well is not effortless (Myth #3). I cannot imagine working full time and going back to school full time online – my hat is off to those of you that can juggle your priorities to make it work!