Online classes: not for the faint of heart

If you are like me, then an online class, at first thought, seems like an easier, more convenient option that will save you time and effort, compared to a traditional face-to-face course. However, after taking several online classes, I found that online classes are more work, give me additional anxiety, increase my stress, and are really inconvenient.

In most traditional classroom courses, you meet two or three times a week and have a very knowledgeable professor to answer any questions and comfort any uneasiness about exams and quizzes. The professor will usually remind you about upcoming due dates on assignments, tell you to check your email, work with you if you are going to be absent, and even give you study guides.  They are coaches motivating you to do well.

Online professors, however, are more like the uncle who thinks the best way to teach you to swim is to throw you in the deep end. They expect you to look at your syllabus at least a week before the first online session. Otherwise, you will already be playing catch up.

Most online professors explain things once and then will tell you to refer to the syllabus thereafter. It isn’t rare for some syllabi to be over 60 pages long. Making sure that you have completed all the requirements of your assignment can make you feel paranoid, since you can’t easily check in with the professor along the way and get an immediate response.

If a question occurs to you after your virtual class session for that week, your only option left is to email the professor. Then, it can take anywhere from one to three days to hear a response. This can be very inconvenient, especially if your unanswered question does not allow you to make progress on your assignment. You also don’t have your smart friend, who actually pays close attention, sitting next to you to ask for help. You’re on your own.

I like to refer to online classes as “big boy classes”. In online classes, you are responsible for everything. The professor doesn’t chase you down to ask you why you didn’t turn something in.  It’s your responsibility to understand the material and requirements, and to ask for help in a timely manner.

Online classes prepare you for the real world. Companies want employees who are self-motivated and don’t need their hand held as they go through the process. In the real world, you’re either a shark or shark bait. Online classes will help you become a shark.

Online classes aren’t for everyone. If you are well organized, pay attention to detail and are self-motivated, then an online class may provide excellent preparation for life after college. But, if you like to procrastinate and like asking the professor a bunch of questions, avoid online classes at any cost. They will bring down your GPA and your confidence.

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