What is an Online Class Is Like: A Student Perspective, Melodie Sargent
As a wife, mother, and career professional, I have been on a long and diverse journey toward completing my undergraduate studies. I spent two years as a single student living on campus, and attending classes at a 3 year non-accredited diploma Bible school, living what is often described as the “college experience,” minus the partying and the crippling debt. Later, I commuted to campus as a part-time married student for a handful of courses at Zion Bible College. Further along my journey, in order to enhance opportunities at work, I took on-line courses in Project Management at a popular on-line university, transferring in some of those credits toward an undergraduate Bible degree. I have attended weekend off-campus classes, and taken vacation time away from work for a concentrated one week on-campus seminar. I have recently added on-line courses from Northpoint to my college experience patchwork.
I love learning in life and in general, and have always thrived in classroom settings. I have gained valuable learning from each class, applying what I have learned in as many ways as I can. I was satisfied with this as its own reward, until I considered the opportunities available through Northpoint’s accredited four year Bachelor’s program, realizing that it was possible for me to turn my years of classes into a Bachelor’s degree by strategically focusing on a handful of remaining courses. With the end in sight, I worked with the Academic Dean to define a path for timely completion. My remaining classes are mostly General Education requirements. My schedule with full time work does not permit me to enroll in these courses on campus, and these courses have not been offered in weekend or seminar versions, so I signed up to complete them via Northpoint’s on-line learning program. I am currently in process with my second on-line class, and am thankful for the opportunity to continue my studies while working full-time and with no classroom offerings available when I am. The on-line courses provide me the flexibility to do my work outside of my business hours.
The following tips have helped me navigate my on-line courses successfully to date. While allowing for flexible schedules, the on-line courses still have defined start and end dates with various items due each week, so I split my course work into smaller parts for each evening, and then set aside concentrated larger chunks of time on weekends. I have found the technology and connectivity to be dependable, but unforeseen issues can and do arise. With that in mind, it is important to build in personal contingency for potential technical issues with either the internet connection, or with the course on-line learning management system by not leaving all submissions up until the final deadline. This minimizes the need for last minute scrambling, or risking late submissions. If the main goal for studying on-line is to gain schedule flexibility, the weekly schedule of due dates may seem difficult to maintain while juggling other life commitments, such as family and career, but it is possible to creatively approach the course work in such a way as to make the flexibility that you need. I set aside time at the beginning of the course to do extra work up front in order to get ahead of the schedule. This buys me more schedule flexibility in future weeks, so that I have wriggle room in a given week without having to submit things under more pressure at the last minute, since I am working on assignments due in one or two weeks rather than one or two days.
For self-motivated students with good time management skills, who can work without supervision, the on-line courses can be a good option. The courses that I have taken have both had a good amount of reading, some video lectures from the professor, which are interesting and relevant. Additional video is also available to reinforce lesson content from a different perspective. The lessons are also supported with multiple hand outs and links to related information on the internet to make connections to current day news and events. Each lesson involves various tasks such as writing short papers, submitting discussions on the lessons, responding to other student’s discussions, and preparing for and writing tests and exams to demonstrate understanding of the material. Some of the tests are formatted within the site as objective tests that provide the grade immediately upon submission, so I find out how I did right away – a little instant gratification. ☺ I plan to take a few more of these on-line courses in order to stay on track to graduate within the next 12 months. I hope others also sign up for on-line classes so that I can interact and get acquainted with more virtual peers.