I spent the four years of obtaining my bachelor’s degree doing it the traditional way. I went away to school, put my time in living with roommates in the dorms, took full course loads every semester and I graduated in the typically allotted time. It was a great experience and one I’m glad I had the chance to experience.
However, I quickly realized I hadn’t made the best choice for me as far as career fields went. I decided to go back to school and try a new direction – web design and administration. This time around I skipped the full fledged degree (since I already have one) and decided to pursue a certificate. The college I found with the right program ended up being on the other end of the country from me. This means distance learning and online classes. It has been quite an experience, in some ways very different from my first go around and in some ways still very much the same. The freedom from a set class schedule every week has been particularly nice, but there’s still plenty of homework (even more in some ways), and a lot of self-motivation.
Online classes are a very unique environment and overall learning experience. Time and again you will hear that it’s really up to you what you take away from online classes. The harder you work, the more motivated you are to learn, then the more you will learn. In many ways this is true. I’ve found that while I had to have quite a bit of self-motivation in a normal college environment, online courses put the burden of learning even more squarely on my shoulders. I’m at a good time in life where I can manage this, though I’m not sure that I could have at 18. I have had some great classes where I learned quite a bit, and have taken away some good practices and ideas.
The problem with this idea though, is that sometimes it really isn’t all in your hands. Like any classroom environment the value of the class depends quite a bit on the person teaching it. How much interaction they have with the class, the quality of their lecture notes and examples, their willingness to lend a helping hand to a struggling student, these are all important factors in the quality of the class. I’ve been pretty lucky, most of the classes I’ve taken have been from enthusiastic and available professors. While I may not have liked all the work or the subject matter they really encouraged the learning process.