The convenience of online learning

I am a huge fan of online learning mostly because it is very accommodating to my busy lifestyle. After graduating with my associates degree I knew immediately I wanted to continue on towards a bachelors. I met with an advisor at Bowling Green State University and found that I would have to attend classes several days a week for the next 2 years. I was working at a dental clinic 4 days a week and was planning a wedding, buying a house and adjusting to finally not attending school every day. As much as I wanted another degree I knew I would have to give up so much to be able to attend classes. I was thrilled to get more information about the OSU degree completion program. With the majority being available online I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

For those with busy lifestyles, long work hours and a family, online learning has become very popular. The fact that it requires way less or no travel time at all and no set classroom time each day or week are just some of the benefits. Students can proactively work at their own pace and utilize the time they have available to complete assignments, readings and research.Online courses can be very similar to face-face courses, the material can be exactly the same just the delivery is different. In most face-to-face courses, the instructor presents the materials, orally explains it and offers time for students to ask questions in front of the rest of the class. In online courses, the majority of the time the student has to read the information for them self, utilize resources to find explanations and then if they have questions have to either post in a discussion board or email the instructor. One thing I miss when I take online courses compared to face-to-face courses is the ability to orally ask a question in front of the rest of the class and have the teacher explain it or they tell where you can find the answer. Sometimes other students ask questions that really spark my thought process or word questions differently that I would have and that really helps me understand some material. This also allows for interactive learning where the learner builds knowledge through inquiry-based collaborative interaction with other learners; teachers become co-learners and act as facilitators. I personally feel that although it is possible to have interactive learning in an online course, that many online courses fail to meet the needs of interacting learning.  Discussion boards can facilitate asynchronous learning exercises, but they often only require the learner to post 1 or 2 times and not fully interact with everyone. I even feel that often times discussion boards allow students to just “cut and paste”, or even just reword what other students have previously posted.

Also online learning, can be difficult to communicate only via email. The majority of the instructors that I have had, do not give access to their phone or offer any time to meet with them. When this is the case, I feel that you lose the ability to create a trustworthy relationship. When there is an interaction with the instructor via web chat, face-to-face or by phone there can be that gap between the student and instructor. I personally like making relationships with others and it provides a feeling of security for myself.  So the lack of relationships is often a challenge for myself.  I feel that if I was to teach an online course, I would provide contact information for myself and make myself available to the students if needed. Maybe even provide video clips of myself talking to them so that they can put a face with my name and not just see me as part of their computer.  This course that we are currently taking, is the first (besides last semester) where I have had an online instructor utilize synchronous discussions. Although, the first few times made me nervous because it was a new idea, I feel like it has allowed us to see each other, hear each other and interact together very similar to if we were in a face-to-face course.

Another challenge is staying organized and determined to complete a task. It is easy to tell yourself you have over a week to complete the readings and assignments, no rush! But then life happens and things arise that often times online learners have to rush right before the deadline to complete a task or even forget about things completely. I have to remind myself to check my email, Carmen account and check list daily to make sure that I am staying on top of it all. Completing all of the assignments on a lap top/computer can open the door for distraction. Facebook, Pinterest, email and online shopping is just one click away!! Sometimes it is hard for me to not open another browser and start looking at something else in the middle of an assignment.

Although there are differences between face-to-face and online learning, both can obviously be quite successful. I enjoy online learning because it works with my super crazy home life. If this program was not offered online I honestly would not be  pursing this degree. I would not have the time to attend classes at a University nor would I have the energy. I love how in online courses I can begin an assignment, or begin reading and then take a break and resume at my convenience. I like that if I have an entire day off that I can work ahead and get as many tasks done so that I can life my normal life during the week! Its also nice that I can work on assignments or read while my son is playing right beside of me. I don’t lose time with him and I don’t have to force someone else to watch him while I go to class. To me the convenience of online learning often outweighs the challenges.