May 07, 2001

Online Course Assessment
by Brandi Ratcliff

In today's society, online courses are widely used in colleges providing easy access to course materials, classroom discussions, and feedback to instructors. The course materials and activities may be accessed from any computer, whether it is from the University or from the comfort of your own home. I've taken two online courses since I've been in college and have benefited from those classes. There are a few reasons to why I'm drawn to an online education course as opposed to taking courses in a traditional classroom setting. First of all, I have a full-time job, which limits my opportunities to attend classes scheduled during normal school hours. Also online classes allow me to work on my own and move at my own pace. Finally, these classes offer more of a one-on-one teacher-student relationship rather than a teacher having to spread their focus amongst thirty other students.

Having a full time job makes it very difficult to schedule your classes. The hours I have scheduled at my job conflict with the times that most classes are offered. The use of online courses has made life at work easier, since my manager refuses to work around school schedules. Since I don't have to meet on a regularly basis, I don't have to leave my job to meet on campus. It is very convenient for me not having to meet on a regular basis. When a person has to work full time, it is hard for that person to successfully juggle their job responsibilities along with homework and study. A person can always take an online course to deal with the time constraints that a job will put on you. The use of online courses allows you to cover the material needed in school while maintaining your workload.

I've learned that to be a successful distance learner, you have to be self-disciplined and able to work well on your own. Since you won't be physically going to class each week, you can take part in class from the comfort of your own home. You must be self-disciplined because the instructor wonít constantly be there to remind you of assignments or of project deadlines. Other obligations may mean that you are not able to do the work as regularly as if you were physically attending class, it will be up to you to make sure that you are keeping up with all the work for the course. Also, one of the main objectives of college is to become a well-rounded individual, with the skills needed to successfully manage a busy agenda.

The first online course I took, I just thought that the work for the course could be put off until I had time to do the work. In doing this, I got very far behind. It took me awhile to catch back up with the assignments and I promised myself that I would never let that happen again. The students who procrastinate about their assignments, usually either wind up withdrawing from the course late in the semester because they have fallen far behind or receiving an "F" in the course because they have not completed the required class-work by the time the course is over. A student should leave time in their schedule in order to complete the online courses successfully. Although online classes are more convenient, than traditional college classes, they should be looked at as typical college classes and not taken lightly.

Being able to communicate with instructors and other students, that are taking these courses, has made me be a more active participant during the courses. With the two online courses Iíve taken, I have never felt it difficult to communicate with my instructor to ask for help or clarification of an assignment. All of these instructors and the students taking these classes have been very helpful to me. The online courses offer a discussion board to send posts to your fellow students. You get a chance to read and critique each otherís work and respond to the comments of your classmates. Iíve learned that by discussing each otherís ideas we are in turn challenging each other to examine our own thoughts and feelings. This makes class work more interesting as we get a chance to share personal experiences in the discussion while improving on our writing style.

Any student that is interested in taking an online course should do research on the class and speak with the instructor before enrolling. Personally, I would recommend online courses to anyone that has a busy schedule, such as having a full time job or having family responsibilities. Also, you are able to learn well by doing the required work on your own, without depending solely on interaction with other students as a means of learning. Online courses are a great alternative to the student who must hold a full-time job while enrolled in college. Online courses are not only convenient but they teach you how to become a more disciplined scholar.


My Experience as an Online Student
by Debra Sicard

    My online classes are a convenience for me. They allow me to take additional classes that would not have fit into my schedule otherwise. I am not a traditional student, so I have non-traditional needs. Internet classes allow me to remain at home with my family. Taking Internet classes has many advantages for a non-traditional, and traditional student, such as: saving money, saving time, and most of all the convenience. Internet classes are the answer for many students with non-traditional needs. However, the only downfall to my Internet class was a computer virus, which was disastrous. I lost everything on my computer, but as for the important files I had backup on floppies. I was lucky, my sister-in-law came within a few days and fixed my computer, so I did not get too far behind. This situation should be considered when taking an Internet class. 
   In my experience with Internet classes, the good far outweigh the bad. Taking Internet classes has saved me money. If I were taking traditional classes,  I would be spending about twenty dollars a week in gas alone, not to mention the wear and tear on my car. The only expense that I incur with Internet classes is my server charge, which is about twenty-five dollars a month. That means by taking Internet classes I am saving over eighty dollars a month, and that does not include wear and tear on my car. I could finance a new computer with the savings from taking online classes.
    Also, Internet classes save time, and saving time is important to me. The travel time alone is time enough for me to complete my assignments. It would take me forty-five minutes to travel to Hammond from Mandeville, and that is only one way. The extra hour and a half makes a big difference when I am a wife, a mother of three children, a full time student, and I work part time. For example, if I spend one hour a day working on my assignments, that means that I still have an extra half hour of free time each day; time that I would normally have to spend commuting to and from school.
    Furthermore, I have learned just as much online as I would have in a traditional class. I do not have the interactions with the instructor and the classmates, but I can email my instructor or my classmates at anytime. Internet classes have the discussion board where my classmates and I can exchange comments and ideas about our papers online. I do not feel as though I am missing out on anything by taking online classes. Actually, I am gaining much more that I am losing. For example, I involve my family in my Internet assignments, and I get ideas from them on assignments. I make a list like a survey, and question everyone on his or her ideas. This is a lot of fun, and it gives me ideas for my assignments. This is a learning experience for my whole family. And also, I am spending time with my family; which is difficult for a non-traditional student.
    Finally, online classes fit my lifestyle, because I am not a traditional student. If given a choice I would take all of my classes through the Internet. Online classes have saved me money and time. Also, online classes allow me to work, to be a wife and mother, and it allows me to be a full time student. The only drawback for me was when my computer crashed. Other than that my experience with online classes has been a rewarding, learning experience.