When I was given the opportunity to take ECON 201 as an online course for the Spring 2017 semester, I seized it right away, even though I had never taken an online class through NJIT before and had no real idea of what to expect. The discussion surrounding the effectiveness of online courses was enough to make me feel comfortable registering for the class, despite my slight reservations.
This scenario is not uncommon, as over the past decade online classes, also known as “distance learning” courses, have developed a strong presence in most higher education institutions, including NJIT. A 2011 study completed by the Pew Research Center reports that 51% of college presidents believe that online college courses provide the same amount of value in comparison to those taught in a classroom, and while online classes do possess a reputation for being no effort, this study further confirms the very palpable appeal of these classes to college students.
After all, what young adult would pass up the opportunity to get the same level of education without ever leaving the comfort of their room? Not me, that’s for sure.
To seal the deal, I also happened to be taking an online class through Middlesex County College over the Winter break to get ahead on my GURs, and I genuinely found the class to be enjoyable, virtually erasing any hesitations I had about taking an online class for an entire semester. With this knowledge in the back of my mind, I came back to school in January, excited for my new classes and ready to emerge with the best GPA I could possibly get.
However, here we are at the end of the semester, and I am singing an entirely different tune. After about fourteen weeks of the course, I have come to realize that despite the statistics and the hype, online classes are not for everyone, and this online class was just not my cup of tea. While it initially appeared to be convenient at face value, due to the course material and the rigor of the course, I found that keeping up with this class added more stress to my daily routine than I could truthfully handle.
I will be the first to admit that I am a forgetful person, and I actively try to combat that every day. If you ask any one of my friends, they will tell you that I do my best to stay as organized as I possibly can – filling out my planner is therapeutic to me, and organizing my color-blocked Google Calendar makes me feel invincible.
Even with my dedication to organization, though, I found myself in a never-ending cycle of forgetting I have homework due for this Economics class and as a result scrambling to complete assignments on time. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose, and when juggling E-board positions, a social life, and spending time with family, something has to give, and in my case, that something this semester was my Economics grade.
Sure, it has been nice not having to lug my exhausted, over-caffeinated self to a 6-9pm class once a week, but the lack of necessity to be physically present in the class had a large effect on my mental presence. While it is hard for me to admit, I found it easy to just sweep this class under the rug and focus on what was in front of me as things got stressful in my other classes, something that is very uncharacteristic of me and the way that I approach school.
Now, I am not denouncing online courses by any means – online classes are a great resource for tons of people, as they are wonderful for those who do not have the luxury of living at school or those who are unable to afford sacrificing a three hours out of the week to come to our campus. They can also be highly effective, proven by both my Winter online course and the dedication of my professor for this Economic course.
Under different circumstances, the experience could have been entirely enjoyable. If I worked harder to prioritize my work, or if I dropped one of my extracurricular activities, or if I was less forgetful, I do believe this class would have been an “easy A” as my friends constantly proclaim. However, within my current situation, I have discovered that online classes are not for me. I’ve found that there is something about going to class that really helps my ability to learn, even if it is inconvenient.
If you choose to take an online course, by all means, go for it! I hope your experience is not like mine, and that you are able to get just what you need out of it, whether that is just a good grade or a quality education. As for me, however, I’ll be schlepping to my 8:30am – exhausted, over-caffeinated, but primed to do my best learning possible, a situation that’s just my cup of tea.