Online education is extremely interesting and quite challenging. Getting used to taking classes online can be a real transition. Self-discipline is critical to success because one cannot rely upon the professor to provide the motivation to do the work, complete the assignments and do the readings. Sometimes, it is easy to let things go a bit longer than one should – and yes, this definitely happened to me this semester. Getting into this situation requires that one play a great deal of catch up – something that can snowball into an unmanageable mass of work quite quickly. Despite these challenges, I have gotten used to the online environment – and am pretty sure that I really don’t want to go back to traditional classroom education.
One of the most challenging hurdles in an online class is taking a final. Granted, different professors will handle exams differently. In my case, my professor sent an email with the final through the online class management tool. Once we opened the file, we had 75 minutes to complete it and email the file back to him. This is a very nerve-wracking process – and it requires a great deal of preparation. First, one has to tell those that they live with that they need 75 uninterrupted minutes – all together. This sounds like an easy task to complete, but I can tell you it isn’t. While it can be very difficult to force oneself to put the required time in for an online class, it is even more difficult to get those that you live with to understand that you need to spend time studying. I find it easiest to make sure that I have the house to myself in order to take finals.
Once I am assured of having a time period without anyone home, there are several other steps that I take to prepare. I get both the regular phone and my cell phone – while I don’t answer either of them, I do put them next to me with the caller ID clearly visible. If the phone rings, I will be distracted so it is easiest to quickly look to see who is calling. Today, I lucked out and no phones rang. I turn the tv on to a show that I enjoy and that I have seen. I need to have the tv on, but I don’t want the show to be something to which I am inclined to pay attention. I turn the volume down low, mostly so I won’t be distracted by the loud commercials. While I took my final a couple of hours ago, I put an episode of Seinfeld on – a show that I generally know well enough not to have to pay attention to. With those items in place, I get my laptop ready – and plug in the power cord. Using up the power and having to find the cord would cut into my allotted time. It is important to use the facilities – even getting up to go to the bathroom would cause a serious interruption in concentration. I like to have a glass of water handy also. With these items in place, I sit in an upright chair with a lap desk for my laptop. I then take a deep breath and get to work. I make sure to have pen and paper handy if I need to write down notes, etc. I also use the paper to write down the actual time that I opened the test – and the time by which I must have it completed. I like to have a clock close so that I know how much time I have left. This can be tough. The first time I took a final this way, I wasted too much time looking to see what time it was. I’m happy to say that today, I was able to pace myself much better – and I only looked at the clock once every 15 minutes or so.
Before I took the test, I made it a point to tell those people that I am closest to that I was taking a final and would be unavailable for a certain time period (this included people at work). As I mentioned earlier, getting other people to respect the fact that you are taking a class online can be difficult. They don’t see you actually go to class. They see that your schedule can be flexible. Others can make it difficult to set boundaries and actually get your work done. This morning, I told my husband that I wouldn’t be answering the phone while I was taking the exam, and then I reminded him of this several times during the day – if he had an emergency he could leave a message on our answering machine which I would be able to hear. Fortunately, this precaution wasn’t necessary.
I’m glad to have made it through today’s final exam. I’m always afraid that I won’t be able to finish in the allotted time frame – worried that something will happen to distract me (like losing internet connectivity). I guess I prefer the classes without a final – there is just a little bit less to worry about.