The summer semester is over – all of my work is done. I am now starting to think not just about my most recent class, but my entire experience in school (now that I am officially 1/3 of the way through the program). I was rereading some of my earlier posts conerning my experiences about online classes to remind myself about where my thoughts have been. Overall, I’m still happy with my choice to attend SCSU as a distance student. But, I haven’t necessarily been getting all that I would like out of the program. Is this because of the program itself or the specific classes that I have found lacking (which isn’t all of them)? Is it because I’m not engaged enough in the process or am I not being engaged? Are online classes by nature less engaging given the physical distance that may separate the students from the campus? Can distance students expect to form some sort of bond with their classmates, their professor or with their schools? Are colleges willing to work to allow this type of community to develop? What would be the best way to allow such relationships to develop? Can online students ever be as active within the school community as traditional students? Would they even want to be (would I want to be)?
Given that I am a pretty quiet person, I didn’t really think that the lack of community or the lack of relationships with other students would bother me – or that I would miss it. But, I definitely do. This past semester, many of those of us in the class were extremely unsure about the class, the assignments, the professor, etc. In a traditional setting, I think we all would have discussed it more – and by discussing it would have felt better about things. That is fairly difficult to do online. There was some discussion. However, all discussions that take place in a course place are accessible by the professor. I think this hampers the discussions that do take place. In my opinion, this inhibits people from sharing anything or discussing anything that could be construed as critical or negative. I know I often refrain from discussing things because I feel as if it could impact my grade.
Learning online is a very different experience. It is very hard to find one’s place (well, I’m finding it hard). Despite this, it is extremely convenient. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to fit a traditional program into my life at this point. Obviously there are trade offs. However, I do think that more is possible – I’m just not sure how to go about getting more.