My issues with online classes

12 May 2015

Summer session started yesterday, and I’m taking two classes — both of which are online. They’re 100-level courses required by my major, and I would have preferred to have taken them this past spring term, but there was misinformation and so I’m taking them now.

I’ve taken a few courses online in the past. A handful of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), and did a program through Stanford. As much as I want to be into online courses, it’s just not my thing. I’m mainly doing it now because it’s either take them online in the summer or in a classroom in the fall and push back the rest of my course plans by another semester.

Even though I’ve only just started these classes, all those little things I disliked about online courses are quickly coming back to me. And so I thought I’d share some of them.

my issues with online classes

» Asynchronous does not always mean asynchronous. Or at least not in the way I was hoping. While there isn’t a set schedule for either of my courses in regards to meeting daily or throughout the week, that’s as far as asynchronous as they get. I was hoping asynchronous was a little more “do it at your own pace,” but holy deadlines, Batman! I’ve got assignments due every. single. day. this week. I realize I can do them in advance, but feels never ending.

» Some of these due dates are wonky. Again, I realize I can turn things in early… but still… There’s no real pattern in these due dates. At least make them consistent, like a response paper every Friday and a discussion board post every Wednesday… Or just something that can help us establish a better routine with our studies! This sort of lackadaisical feel to it all just frustrates me more and I feel this crazy stress that I’m going to miss something because all the due dates feel arbitrary. (Some things are even due on holidays!)

» Group work is extra tricky when you never see your partners face to face. I mean, how am I supposed to hold these kids accountable for doing their parts if they can’t see the glaring bitch face of seriousness they will get from me if they slack off? I don’t really like group work anyway, but I sort of hate it even more in this setting. I’m still waiting to hear from half of my group for an assignment due tomorrow evening. It also means that while I can sort of go at my own pace for most of the class, I’m going to have to sit around an wait for my partners and hope they aren’t wait until the very last minute sort of people.

» Professors who just dump a lot of reading on you and don’t lecture. Maybe the MOOCs spoiled me, but when I think of any sort of enjoyable online class, it’s been one where there are pre-recorded video lectures given by the instructors. I want to hear their voice and their thoughts. I don’t want to just read powerpoint slides or outlines that basically give me the same information as the textbook (which we’re required to read as well). At least with a video or audio lecture, it would be regurgitated through the lens of the professor. We have the equipment and the graduate assistants to produce such media, and frankly I’d find it more valuable.

» Distractions, distractions, distractions. This is definitely more of a personal thing. I’ve got to develop a better schedule for dedicating part of my day to each class. I’m sorting out now whether I prefer reading in the morning, or if that’s time better spent for any written assignments. (Because let’s face it, that’s also my NPR time.) And then I also found out that the parking restrictions lift after 4pm on weekdays, so I can easily go and hangout at the library or atrium in the evenings and get some work done there.

Finding a good balance this summer is going to be important, as I have one online class in the fall and I don’t want it to get pushed aside for my other on-campus courses. I’m hoping to get my study nook finished — meaning finally getting my grandpa’s desk. I also want to get some patio furniture so I can take advantage of my porch.

Have you taken online courses? What tips do you have for succeeding?

  • I think I was in college near the beginning of on-line courses. Ive thought of going back and taking some, but I don’t know if I could stay on top of myself enough. I need accountability. Props to you for being able to hang in there!

    • The accountability thing is a huge thing for me. My first online class was with Stanford about 6 years ago and I was so terrible at making myself complete the work. I’m surprised I passed that class. I’m doing better now, but I feel like all I do all day every day is read and take notes. Still working on trying to get a good rhythm.

  • Kay

    I don’t know how I would handle an online group project. D: In person ones are tough enough, but as you said, having to rely on them without having any real direct contact…so stressful! And distractions, YES. I am such a procrastinator, and having to fully rely on myself to get the work done would be a bit daunting haha.

    • My group decided to use Facebook to work on and discuss our projects… which worked well for this first one in just letting us connect… but not so much on the grade… Which of course is irritating me to no end. I hate not being in complete control of my grades!

  • I hate group project with online classes. They just don’t work. My last online class, the only good thing about it was everything was due on the same day each week. That was about it. Good luck!

    • Thanks! My group seems good about working together, which is nice… but, well… that didn’t translate into a well written assignment. I’m trying to figure out how to tactfully address this with my group… but without being all mean. Ugh. Group work. :

  • I remember taking one online class (Intro to Anthropology) back in college and what I remember being the worst part about it was the class participation part of it…

    The way it had been structured was instead of writing papers and submitting them to the instructor and having them graded, there was a rudimentary message board and every week there was a set of three to five questions that you had to pick one or two to answer and write a post about and then you were required to reply to at least two of your other classmates.

    As someone who blogged and spent a ridiculous amount of time on message boards recreationally, I had kinda lofty expectations of my classmates. I was expecting well thought out posts and involved written discussions…. and well… That’s not what happened.

    The vast majority of my classmates were either not great writers and/or they just didn’t care enough to do more than the very bare minimum to answer the questions. I was the consistent overachiever in the group, and I remember hating having to reply to two people because I felt like most of the answers were wasting my time.

    • I’m doing 2 intro anthropology courses — cultural and biological. Thankfully, so far, a lot of the information overlaps right now. All of our stuff is on message boards, but yeah, it’s nothing like online forums or the community we know in the blogging world. I’m happy we don’t have to respond to other’s posts. Forced conversations (online or off) in classrooms just don’t work.

  • KatyRochelle

    Nice post! Taking online classes was very frustrating. I’m happy I never had to deal with a group project. Sometimes on-site classes with group activities was annoying enough when people didn’t want to meet up or not participate at all. The different due dates was hard to stay on top of the most. It’s convenient to have assignments that can be turned in early, especially around the holidays. Learning new information can feel very daunting, especially when tests are due when we were changing chapter subjects. Keeping a calendar handy is the best advice I can give, and check it ALL. THE. TIME. Good luck! 😀

    • I’m starting to get better with my calendar — marking down what chapters to read and not just when things are due. Hopefully I’ll setting into a good routine soon. But so far, it’s been all day every day reading and notes. It’s a bit exhausting.

  • Mindy Nickel

    Oh man, I so agree with all of these points. My Master’s program was almost entirely online, and there were definitely times that I struggled with the online format. Deadlines especially. I really liked the classes that I could turn in the majority of my work early so that I could focus on harder classes later in the semester, but sometimes professors forced you to work at a certain pace. That I found irritating. I really prefer video lectures to PPTs and written lectures as well.

    Studying at the library or another quiet place on campus was what really helped me get through everything. I set aside certain blocks of time every day that I wouldn’t let myself check my phone or social media. I think that’s the only way I got through sometimes!

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