My issues with online classes

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?