The very first course I enrolled in was a 4 credit Biology with lab. It was one of these new (to me) hybrid style courses where the class was online but the lab portion was on site. I have been a traditional learner all my life. I learn by studying, watching, doing, reading and being involved. Online was new and man was it a shock to the system.
In high school I was never the student a teacher would typically say “Great student.” I was young, thick headed and had more than my share of teenage angst, all being a mediocre student at best. Skating along doing the bare minimum did me no favors, that is a resounding fact. Growing older I learned that I simply can not conduct myself like this and changed my strategy for learning and my dedication and devotion to it. When there was something I needed to learn or apply myself to, I discovered that when I did, I succeeded. I wish this revelation had come to me when I was 15, things would most likely be different.
This class expected me to work on my own, set my own schedule and meet certain expectations. I thought I was prepared for it and set plenty of time to devote to this class. What I wasn’t prepared for was the disconnect between online learning and instruction and butt in the seat style learning. It was hard catching on. The first exam was online only utilizing the schools web based software. What happens when you miss click on one of those tests? It’s over. Test ended, time for scoring. Needless to say this happened to me. Fifteen minutes later and several panicked calls to the school allowed me to restart the test. Note to self, hands off the mouse when between questions and double check what you click before you do it. The lab portion of the course came much easier. The chemistry portion was easier to understand with from my studies at work, and basic ideas came along decently. The lab, being in person, came along much more easily at first than the lecture. It took me a while and a lot of work, but I managed to get the hang of the online learning, and what’s needed to succeed at it. I have heard people say in the past that online learning is not really hard and that its not as recognized as regular courses. I must beg to differ on this point. The lecture portion of this class was vastly harder without a teacher. I think that simply sitting in class provides a benefit you can not get in front of a monitor. That person to person interaction pays longer term dividends, especially with your long term memory.
During the progression of this class I had many talks with my professor. She truly was one of the smartest people I have ever met and definitely an inspired teacher. Upon hearing my concerns about portions of this course and the struggles I was having (Grrr Electron Transport Chain) she recommended I sit in on the lecture portion. Wait… What…. This is great, I could sit in on her lectures which followed our course very closely. this was the difference between a B and an A for me. Working would not allow me to attend all of the classes as I liked, but in problem areas or tricky portions I could add that little bit of help to my arsenal.
I have taken several classes online since then and all area as different as they are alike. Some allowed my to come in for lecture, some did not. There are certain subjects that lend themselves easily to online learning, I believe it boils down to what is your weaker and stronger subjects.
This first class was definitely a learning experience for me. While I learned a lot about biology in general, I also learned a ton about time management, work ethic and how online learning needs to be approached. You simply can not approach an online course with a skate by attitude. You may pass with that approach, but you will not learn that subject. If I have learned nothing else in all my years, learning is a cumulative beast. If you truly want to understand higher levels of a subject, you need to master the lower levels of it.
Online learning is great, it really is a blessing for those who work, have a limited schedule and want to improve themselves. But to really learn a subject, at least for me, I do much better in a classroom environment.