Saturday, September 7, 2013

Online Classes

Online classes scared me the first day I logged into my R.O.D.P. account. Regents Online Degree Program has made going back to school possible for working adults like me. However, it took some time for me to get the hang of online classes.

This is my first semester going back to school. My school is inside my laptop. I can go to school anytime. That's the best part about taking online classes. The worst part? Well...I'm still a newbie so I'm learning the good and bad aspects as I navigate through this stuff. I'll let you know as I find out.

Why was I scared at first? Because the idea of taking online classes hit me in the face on the first day of school at good ole' R.O.D.P. I didn't have to dress up for class. I had a comfy spot to sit. I met my professors and classmates in discussion forums and emails. I wonder what they look like. Everybody was really nice, so that part helped. Making good impressions online is easier than in person, so you get the same advantage when you sign into your classes.

On the first day, you just try not to freak out. If it's your first time doing a course online, you're going to freak out. Accept it. Go with it. It's normal.

As you frantically click from tab to tab, you may find yourself talking more. Your classmates can't hear you and you can't hear them but it's likely they are talking to themselves, too. I said things like, "Where is this syllabus?", "How the hell do I do that?", and "Why is my professor talking about dogs peeing on my homework?"

Yeah, that last part happened. One of my online instructors greeted the class in an email that explained there would be no tolerance for late assignments, regardless of circumstances. Then, he gave an example that used the term, 'whizzing'.

If I'd been sitting in a classroom and heard the emailed greeting read aloud, I'd gotten to see the looks on my classmates' faces. I bet they were just as surprised as I was by this greeting in their inbox.

I've found that personalities are evident in the postings of my teachers and classmates. It's weird but even online, I know who my class friends are. I know whose posts are irritating, stupid, smart, thoughtful, considerate, and rude. I remember the names of the people I like. I base whether or not I like my online classmates on their posts. It's the way you judge people when you don't go to campus. They judge you, too. It's okay, though, because you don't get the true feeling that their opinions matter. What they have to say is just what you read in your discussion forums. If something offends you there, you're just one click away from excusing yourself from the classroom. That part is awesome...

FREEDOM is my favorite thing about online classes.

PLANNING is my least favorite thing. Planning to coordinate quizzes, assignments, essays, group projects, and exams is made more difficult by the way some of your professors list this information.

Some due dates will be posted to your course calendar. Some will be listed on your syllabus. Others will be hidden like Easter eggs, scattered throughout a jumble of pages and tabs. Scavenger hunting skills will be your salvation. May your professors answer any of your egg-hunting questions in a prompt manner. Mine have responded to questions I probably wouldn't feel comfortable asking in a classroom setting.

That's another benefit to online classes- Comfortability to ask questions. It comes with the freedom part.

Since your questions can be emailed to your professor, nobody else has to know them. That helps when your question is stupid. Some questions are stupid, contrary to popular belief. People can say that the only dumb question is the one you don't ask but those people are probably the ones asking dumb questions. They are just trying to save face by encouraging others to do the same. That's another topic for another day.

At least with online classes, you don't waste time hearing questions from others that don't apply to you. When you do have a question- even a dumb one, you send an email.

It's that easy.

I've heard that some people don't get responses from their professors. I feel sorry for them and am furious with those professors just like those poor students, alone in online-class-land, just trying to navigate through the jungle of course content all by themselves.

Fortunately, my professors have been great. Even Mr. Wizz, who has this secret nickname because of my first impression of his email. :)

Alright, so the freedom of online classes has been established. Now, I'll tell you some tips that'll help you in your first online course. These things helped me but I had to figure them out and am still working on finding what works for me and what doesn't.

Here you go, online scholars!


- Click through every tab. Some of your professors list assignments in one convenient place but others send you on a scavenger hunt. Check Assessments, Calendar, Due Dates, Syllabus....everywhere. You may get paranoid. You'll have a ridiculous fear about missing an assignment. I still do. That part doesn't go away...sorry.
- Invest in a good planner. Since I normally use my iPhone or iPad calendar, I felt a little old-school buying a planner. I got one for moms and I'm not a mom. Those planners are the BEST, though. If you're working and taking classes, get the mom planner. You're going to need it!
- Don't stress too much about Discussions and Forums. I learned this after several days of class. I had taken way too much time to come up with my discussion post, making sure I covered every single topic listed. The rest of my online classmates breezed through the forum like a sneaky fart. I mean, they barely wrote anything. There were typos and bad grammar all over the place. Seems that they get by alright, though. So far, I think forums are just a check-in assignment that you really don't have to use your brain to get an A grade. I guess I look like an overachiever in there but I'd rather type more than less until I can confirm my suspicion that the whole thing is bullshit.
- Make sure that if you sign up for a 7-week-course, you know you're signing up for a 7-week course. I rushed through my class registration. I knew what courses I needed and blissfully clicked through scheduling this and that until I had followed my college-pathway-plan-of-success. What I didn't realize was that I had signed up for 2 courses that jam-pack an entire semester's curriculum into 6-7 weeks. Yeah, I have no social life right now thanks to this little 'uh-oh'.
- Get on your professors' good side. You don't have to be a suck-up/teacher's pet. Nobody likes that- even online. What you do have to do is distinguish yourself from all your other classmates. Your professor needs to associate you as the poor, stressed out little college student who just wants to try his/her best. Otherwise, you're just another name on their list of students to grade. Make them care. Send them an email. Don't email them too often, though...that's the teacher's pet thing you're trying to avoid, remember? Just send an email every now and then when common sense tells you it's appropriate. When they send you updates, reply with a thanks so much or that is really helpful to me response. If you completely miss a philosophy concept in a public discussion with your classmates, send your professor an email. I did that, too. When I realized my answer conveyed that I understood, but didn't correctly answer the assignment- I sent an email to explain myself. I think that saved my grade on that one. Anyway, try to make friend-sies with your professor.
- Wake up early. Go to bed early. Whether you get up early or stay up late, you've got to find a few hours in the day to get your school-time on. I've read about Aristotle at 4:00AM. Maybe you'll find time to do that later in the day. Point is, you have to make time to do this stuff. People tell you that you've got to have self-discipline. I think coffee should go with it. LOTS of coffee. Make sure you sleep or you'll talk yourself out of doing your assigned readings. They're the easiest and worst thing to ever skip out on- Sleepy people aren't read-y people. Playing hookie will bite you in the booty. Time-management is a must if you're going to get through it.
- Familiarize yourself with names of your classmates. You may or may not ever meet these people but you need to figure out who is smart, closed-minded, lazy, fun, or completely rude. Why? Because you have to talk to them. You are forced to have conversations you wouldn't normally have. You'll have to reply to the posts from your classmates if you're going to get a good grade. Once you know the names of people you like (at least in your online life), you can finish posts much more quickly! It's easier to finish assignments when you know the classmates with whom you have nothing in common.
- Print stuff. Chapter Summaries are your FRIEND. Print them. Don't just keep them there on your screen...You'll never read them that way. Print them out and read those before you start reading the actual chapters. The quiz questions are often answered in those summaries. When you're taking a quiz, unless you're stationed up with 3 computers, you can reference those nice, printed out summaries. :)
- Get and Stay Ahead of the Game. Look at your mom planner. Every day. Write down every single thing you have to do in that little planner. Take it one day at a time, as far as completing your assignments. If you have extra time, start on a paper that isn't due for a while. Do that on days when you don't have anything assigned. Read your chapters until you know everything in the chapter summary and then some. Sleep and Study, repeat.

More to come as I navigate through R.O.D.P. for the first time! Wish me luck. :) 

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