On being a student in 2012

If it’s been many years since you were last in school, things have changed a lot.  I’ve been out of school and working for more than ten years and feel at ease (and even prefer) using computers for both professional and personal purposes.  Despite my comfort level using computers, I had to get accustomed to accessing, submitting and receiving graded assignments through e-mail or Blackboard and (remembering to) print out PowerPoint presentations prior to lectures.  When I was in college and grad school (the first time around), we had to wait until the first class session to receive the syllabus.  Now, we have our syllabi way in advance and are responsible for material on the first day of class.

At my school, you can choose between traditional in-person classes that meet on a weekly basis and hybrid classes.  Some hybrids require a few in-person meetings, some require a few live online lectures and most are a mixture of both.  All of the hybrids I’ve taken include pre-recorded lectures that can be completed at any time.  I’ve noticed that assessments in the form of test and quizzes seem to be more frequent than in traditional classes.  I’m grateful for regular assessments because it helps keep me on track.   If you’re a procrastinator like me, you could very easily end up with 14 2-hour lectures to complete at the end of the semester.  I try as much as possible to stick to the live online lecture schedule, even if I know they will be recorded.  Not only do I have a time slot dedicated to it, I also get to ask questions and participate via chat boxes.  It’s great; you can interject whenever something comes to mind without actually interrupting!

At first I thought I wouldn’t like the impersonal nature of online classes, but with the time flexibility and portability they allow, I don’t know how I would manage a full-time job and two classes per semester otherwise.  Another thing I realized was that online classes aren’t necessarily impersonal.  In fact, I find that I tend to participate in class and interact with professors more during online classes.  It’s also nice to take a class while enjoying the comfort of your couch, a cup of tea or even a home cooked meal!  Or…if you’re out of town, the comfort of your hotel room.

One new component of both traditional and online classes is the opportunity (and sometimes requirement) to learn from our classmates outside of class. In one course, we were required to contribute to a class blog and share information about current public health issues. In another course, we shared individually written papers with group members and provided feedback and constructive criticism for each other.

I’ve found that I like taking a mix of online and traditional classes. One day a week, I cut down on travel time and have more of a relaxing class, and the other day I go to campus and can meet with my advisor and/or catch up with classmates. Being online may be more convenient and time efficient, but nothing compares to face-to-face human interaction.

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