This past spring I took two classes online. These classes are prerequisites for entry into some of the schools I will apply to in the fall. This was the first time I only took online classes. Ohio State almost never offered any of the classes I took online, and for good reason. While at Ohio State I took a couple general education classes online, but that was it.
So being a completely online student was super weird for me. I would do it again if I there was no better option, but it definitely is not my first choice. Really when it comes to your schooling, and your future career it is all about what works best for you. But here are some of my thoughts on being an online student.
Work from wherever
This was probably my favorite part of being an online student. As long as I had wifi I had the ability to work on my schoolwork. I worked on my schoolwork in coffee shops, juice bars and even in my hotel in Mexico. I know, doing work on vacation does not sound ideal, but sometimes it is just necessary. Unfortunately I agreed to travel to Mexico months before the professor posted the class schedule and therefore I took a psychology exam two days after returning from Mexico. If I had taken the same classes at a local university going to Mexico this past spring would not have made sense for me. And at this point in my life school still comes first. My goal is to get into grad school and I believe finishing these courses will help me to achieve that goal. For me the ability to work from anywhere helped me get out of the house a lot. Sometimes staying focused at home can be a struggle for me. On top of that getting out of the house gives me much more opportunity to meet people. And when I say people I mean adults because my current job helps me meet lots of people, just many of them are small humans aka children.
The increase of offerings of online classes means you can take classes remotely from pretty much any university. With the only requirement to do the coursework being wifi classes are more accessible than ever. Online classes allow for all types of people to take classes they need to advance their careers, or want to take just for the knowledge. They could help a business person who travels all the time complete a higher degree, or a stay at home parent who does not feel like in person classes will work well for them and their families’ needs. Universities offering online classes can open up opportunities that may not already be available to certain individuals and that is amazing.
When talking about accessibility a discussion about cost seems relevant. University classes do come with a pretty hefty price tag, and that is no exception for online classes. I would imagine community colleges offering online classes at a more reasonable rate, but I currently do not have any experience with that. But all universities and colleges have financial aid offices and representatives who can help you learn about payment options. I suggest scheduling a time to meet with a financial aid representative if the costs associated with these classes worry you.
Only taking online classes personally was not my favorite. It made the most sense for me at the time, but was difficult for me in many ways. I struggled with a few different aspects of the online classes. These may be things you consider when deciding if online schooling is right for you.
This was one of the most difficult parts for me to be completely honest. I love school and learning, but motivating myself to do the work at times was challenging. For me being in the classroom setting and seeing my classmates on a regular basis helps motivate me. I think that partially comes from the competitive nature of a classroom, but also the conversation that occurs in a classroom setting. In a classroom setting I try my best to actively take notes and engage in discussion.
Online I was able to rewind videos, pause them and take notes word for word. Personally I do not think I thought too much about the material while doing this. While taking notes in the classroom paraphrasing is almost necessary. This means you understand the material presented well enough to write the key points and fill in the remaining information at a later time. During an in person lecture students can almost immediately ask questions. For me this means I am less likely to forget my questions. In a classroom setting I believe I am more active in my learning compared to this past semester when I took classes online.
While watching the lectures online I did the bare minimum. But hey that is just me. It probably also did not help that the one class I know is super relevant, but I have very little interest in it. And the other seemed like the content could have been more difficult. It was my first of many nutrition classes I will take and I learned from the class, but I wanted more. So if you already lack motivation taking an online class may not be the way to go.
The classes I took this past spring were through Ohio State although I was in Austin. This meant that I could not take exams on campus. Again each class differs in set up and this includes how professors administer exams. This semester both my classes offered on campus options as well as online proctored options. Seeing as I was not going to fly back and forth to Columbus multiple times I chose the online proctoring option. It was odd though, because they both used different proctoring services. Supposedly both of the proctoring systems had contracts with Ohio State. This confused me a bit because one of them had extra fees associated with it.
I was not too happy about the fee seeing as Ohio State also charges an extra fee for taking classes through their distance learning program. ProctorU was the name of the company. And each exam cost me between $17.50 and $25. The price you pay is for the proctor themselves. They have a proctor watch through your webcam during the whole exam. It is honestly pretty creepy if I do say so myself.
ProctorU also was not my favorite because for some reason I had a lot of trouble with their system. Every time I went to take the exam the extension said it needed to be enabled, but when I pressed the enable button it would not fix the problem. I do not know if this was a problem with my Google Chrome browser, or with their system. Either way it stressed me out a bit and that is not what you want right before an exam.
The other proctoring system I used was Proctorio. This one I did not have to pay an extra fee. This system did not have a personal proctor on the other side. They recorded my activity through keyboard strokes, sound, and video, but must have a program that flags suspicious activity to watch the videos at a later time. This system was much easier as a student. They also have a required Chrome extension, but I personally never had problems. And once the extension was installed I just entered the test through the schools homework portal called Carmen.
If you take online classes through OSU these may be proctoring services you may encounter. I am sure there are many like these that other universities use as well. Although they may be frustrating at times, proctoring services like these are necessary to uphold the academic integrity of universities.
No Classmate Interaction
Interacting with classmates can be some of the most beneficial interactions you have while taking a class. When interacting with classmates you can gain a better understanding of the material while not feeling as intimidated as if you were interacting with the professor. Classmates can help you think of the topics from a different perspective, help you fill in blanks in your notes and create study groups. In an online class you have less access to other students in the class. You may have access to other students emails, but if you do not have a relationship with a person it would be a bit odd to just randomly get an email from them asking a question related to class. Hopefully you would be nice enough to respond, but that may not always be the case.
My one class did have a discussion board to encourage students to interact with one another, but it definitely is not the same. I have always been a “traditional” student and because that is how I have always learned I like to learn in that way. I appreciate interaction with classmate because I really do think it is beneficial. For me I do not know that I would have minded this as much if I had made more friends in Austin. Schools are places where you often meet a lot of people and I have had difficulty meeting people now that I am not in a school setting.
All in all online classes can be super beneficial, but they do have some downsides. When it comes to schooling everything is so individualized it is hard to generalize anything. These are some of the things I found to be good and bad for me throughout my online semester. If the only option was to take classes online I would definitely do it again, but if I had the option taking classes in person is definitely my preference.