This is a guest blog post by Marlene Quiram, a recent graduate of California State University at Fullerton. During her undergraduate years, Marlene completed online courses in subjects ranging from math to business writing. She offers feedback on her experience with online courses.
By Marlene Quiram
I began my undergraduate work at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. At the time I was in my late 20’s, married with a young daughter. I also worked full-time. When I’d come home from work I would hurriedly make dinner for my family before dashing off to my evening classes. I was gone for two or three evenings a week. After a couple of semesters of this grueling schedule, I wanted a break. I decided to try an online course.
As the start date for my online class neared, I was excited over the prospect (and freedom) of studying independently from the comfort of my home. When the class began, I logged in excitedly to the course website. First, I quickly scanned the syllabus. On the agenda were weekly quizzes, homework assignments, and mandatory online discussions with my virtual classmates.
But immediately I noticed some differences between an online and an on-campus course. To my surprise the online class demanded triple the amount of work required in a face-to-face course. After taking a few online courses, I realized that this was the norm–that I could expect to do more work in the online courses. Throughout my college years I took six online courses. All but one online course followed this model, though the professor in that one course also increased the work requirements as the class proceeded.
In essence, I found that online courses require more work than on-campus courses.
However, online courses offer some compelling benefits. One payoff for me was the luxury of studying during my lunch hour at work. Also, I could study in the evenings at home while plopped in a comfy chair. Looking back on things, I certainly didn’t miss walking in the cold of the night to buildings on a college campus.
But there were some shortcomings too. Online classes lack the face-to-face interaction you would normally have with a professor or a classmate. Sometimes I missed the ambiance of a classroom. I also missed getting to see and to interact with other students, as you would in a physical environment. I missed hanging out with fellow coffee drinkers during the class breaks.
After comparing my online and on-campus experiences, I decided that my personal preference is for the traditional, on-campus experience. I want to emphasize that this is a personal preference. My online courses were well-taught. I learned a lot in the online courses.
College students should definitely consider online courses. They should be open-minded about this alternative method of learning. After all, I took six online courses. My online courses were well structured, and my professors were always accessible through the Internet. But I suggest that students review their motives for taking online courses. They should take into consideration their personal schedules. For example, if a student already has a full course load, it might not be wise to add an online course. That might be stretching it. Online courses save travel time, but in my experience they require much more attention.