Online Classes: Helpful or Harder?
Growing up in a rural area, I was well accustomed to online courses. I took a required state history course online, as well as a couple semesters of Rosetta Stone in Spanish.
I secretly loved having my own little study room in the library during second period all to myself to do my online class. I felt excited to access knowledge I couldn’t otherwise get.
Now in university, my perspective has evolved. Having taken a few online courses at the University of Victoria, here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of online courses:
Online courses are a great way to fit classes into your schedule. Especially when it comes to a secondary field of study at UVic, it can be hard to fit two different department’s classes into your one schedule.
In-person courses for your professional communications minor could clash with your required business courses. That’s where online classes have a huge advantage. You can do them at any time, in the comfort of home. You can listen to lectures in your pajamas, respond to class discussions in your pajamas…you get the picture.
More time with pets: another great advantage of online courses! Photo by Klaudia Ekert from Pexels.
Online courses at UVic offer incredible flexibility, from professors that are actually at your school, unlike other distance learning programs.
When I took an online class last semester, I felt more confident knowing that my professor worked at UVic, and I could drop by their office hours just like in any other class.
A final benefit of online courses is the opportunity to build your time management skills. Just like in any other course, if you miss, you will fall behind. Taking an online class actually helped me better schedule the rest of my homework, as I had to block out specific hours (Wednesdays, 9:30AM-12PM to be exact) to read the material, take notes, and watch or listen to any supplementary materials, as well as find time to finish the assignments and participate in class forums.
As a result of my online course, I gained valuable time management skills, and I kept myself accountable for my own education.
On the other hand, online classes are a very different experience from an in-person class. In a brick-and-mortar learning environment, you get the benefit of a real classroom environment. You get to directly ask questions and absorb the material in person. Online classes in comparison can feel less valuable.
I personally have found that across the board, I learn more when I take a class in-person. The material in an online course sometimes can’t compare to the vigor of two hour-and twenty-minute instruction periods per week, plus time outside of class on assignments.
Missing time in the classroom is a drawback of online classes. Photo by Snapstock from Pexabay
Another difficult part of online classes is their flexibility. In-person, you have to show up. Online, you have to have the self-discipline to do your work even when it could be easier to put it off, such as when you have another paper to finish.
They feel more ephemeral, and therefore less important, than your other classes. Lastly, there’s a liminality issue. As amazing as it is to “go to class” on your couch, sometimes the psychological act of putting on clothes, combing your hair, and going to class makes a big difference in how motivated you feel to show up intellectually and absorb the material.
Online classes offer both advantages and disadvantages. What’s important is to understand how you learn best: Are you someone who needs to physically go to class each day? Or are you someone with outside commitments who would prefer not to come to campus on a day when you otherwise wouldn’t have to? How do you learn best, and what’s most convenient for you?
Asking these questions before starting an online class will help you predict how the experience will mesh with your learning style. If you’re someone who needs the distinction between schoolwork and home life, perhaps you’d benefit from always doing your online course somewhere outside of your normal homework area, such as in the library in the mornings or the dining room table at night.
On the whole, online classes have challenged me to manage my time, and offered me a great flexible option when courses didn’t line up for my major and minor. Overall, I’m glad I have a choice between in-person and online classes, so I can create the academic schedule I need to succeed.