It has been a few years since I graduated from college (ahem), and it’s crazy to think how time flies. I remember the good ol’ days of hanging with my friends, late night study groups, cramming for finals, and calling home from a wall-mounted telephone in my door room. I learned a lot in those four years, especially senior year, as I prepared to enter the “real world” as a college graduate with student loan debt and a whole lotta uncertainty about my future.
Thankfully, my hard work in college paid off, and I landed a good job and moved to a city with a lot promise and possibility. But I knew I wanted more, both professionally and academically, so I applied to graduate school to catapult my career to a higher level. However, working full-time and going to school full-time was EXTREMELY challenging. Something needed to give, and luckily, I was able to take one of my courses online during my last year of study.
At the time, online courses weren’t as popular or even really talked about, but my program offered a few online options for students who needed maximum scheduling flexibility. I decided to enroll in an online course, as I was desperate to cut back on commuting. The course lasted nine weeks, and I have to say, it was a pretty cool experience
Here’s what I liked about it:
- Scheduling Flexibility: Hand’s down, flexibility is a must for students juggling a busy work schedule. I worked full-time, five days a week while attending graduate school. Taking an online class gave me the opportunity to create a schedule that fit my hectic lifestyle. At the time, I worked 7:30-3:30 and attended classes in the evenings, twice a week, from 5:00-9:00. By the time I got home from class, on a 45-minute subway ride no less, I was dead tired. Technology was my savior. I simply couldn’t balance it all if I wanted to graduate in under three years.
- Convenience, Convenience, Convenience: Did I mention convenience? Okay, so many convenience and flexibility or one in the same here, but I cannot stress enough – the convenience factor is hard to beat. After working an eight-hour day, I was able to stay home and attend my class virtually – this freed up A LOT of time by eliminating the commute from work to campus to home, but it also allowed me to establish a very convenient learning environment that fit my lifestyle. I attended class in my home office when it was most convenient for me – Saturday mornings after a good night’s rest! I would check my email, read class assignments, respond to my peers, and start my homework. I also logged in during my lunch breaks at the office. The freedom to study at the best time for me made for a pretty awesome experience.
- Self-Pacing and Accountability: Let’s face it. We all learn differently and there is no one route that is better than others. Depending on the course, e-learning often allows students to work through an online course at their own pace. But with self-pacing comes accountability and with accountability comes responsibility. To be successful in an online class, you’ll need set aside time each week to reviewing course materials, assignments, and online chat groups.
Discussion posts and responding to your classmates is a huge part of the experience; it’s how online learners interact with their peers. In fact, some of the best discussions I had were over chat! I think we all embraced the free flow of wildly different ideas and thoughts. Online learning isn’t for everyone, but it definitely provides students with an effective, and in my opinion, fun alternative to pursuing an education.