Although I'm an RN, I am working toward a degree in HIM (Health Information Technology). You might recognize that if I tell you it's Medical Records. My community college, particularly the HIM department, has been putting a lot of classes online. We are told that it is because they are keeping up with the competition. It's frustrating for a older person like me who has only known an education where you go and physically attend a class. We have no choice. Some of our classes are online and have to be taken that way. There have been problems, but so far the department chairs have been understanding.
- I don't have to go to the school.
- I can sit around the house in my PJs if I want while I work on my school material.
- I can get up and take a break any time I want.
- If I am interrupted I can walk away from the computer and always go back to it.
- With most tests I get immediate feedback and grading.
- The biggest for me has been ISP connection problems since I only have dial up service. I have been cut offline in the middle of taking tests which became a big problem.
- For my medical coding class I still have to use the school computers since the 3M encoder (a specialized program for coding) is only on their computers and we can't access it from outside the school.
- The instructor of one class NEVER answers any e-mails. It is like she has dropped off the face of the Earth.
- The same instructor mentioned above, gives really poor written instructions so assignments are sometimes confusing. So much for good English.
- Until I got a regular routine going for each class, I wasted a lot of paper and ink printing out things.
- I have also used up a lot of space saving things from websites we were directed to not knowing if that information was going to be important for future tests or not.
- I miss the interaction between the students and the instructor in the classroom.
I just realized that I have more Con's than Pro's. However, from my understanding, the system isn't going to change. I have found myself trying to seek out others who are in the online classes when I am physically present at the school. Halfway through the semester, I found four others. And what did we end up doing? B&M'ing about the instructor who never answers our e-mails!
My advice to people about to take online classes: if you don't have a good Internet connection, such as some kind of DSL line, know where one is for taking online tests. I found my public library had them, but I am restricted to only one hour of use at a time. Kinko's around by me has them also, but costs by the minute for use--they are my back up in case I can't get to the library. I can also use the school computers, but the school is 28 miles from where I live and they are closed on Sundays, including the school library. Also, it is helpful to have supplemental books to help you with any classes. There is also a lot of information on the Internet these days as well. One of my instructors has been very good about posting websites we can go to for more information. Since I've been helping nursing students here on allnurses I've learned a lot about surfing the net. I use words in my surfing like "tutorial", "definition", "explanation" and "procedure" for example when I am looking for information about a specific subject. Using the word "tutorial" has gotten me a lot of interesting hits. Use your vacation time off school to surf the net for likely websites that may be of help for classes you intend to take in the future. Check out textbook publishers sites for online companion sites that go with their textbooks. Some, not all, have extensive sites that you can access for free or have listed links to sites explaining the concepts in their books. I found a math site sponsored by a textbook publisher where you can get endless math problems to work for free along with step by step explanations of how to do them if you get stuck from pre-algebra to calculus. What a find that was!
Finally, I don't think online classes are going to go away. This is the future of education. One of the attractions of medical coding (which is something I started getting into when my back went bad) is that it is work that can be done from home. Who doesn't want to work from home? So, I think that as time goes on we are going to see more and more classes and work being adapted to the online environment. Now, being just a bit of a skeptic I have to wonder, what if the electricity goes out. . .or, the radio towers topple. . .just wondering. I'm a big believer in having an appreciation and respect for the past and the old ways of doing things. I don't think we should put away all our pens and pencils just yet.