This year is the first year I have studied online. I wasn't completely sure it was the best way for me, but decided to give it a go. As those two subjects are winding up now, I've had mixed feelings about how successful it has been for me, but would feel confident about tackling it again in the future.
One of the hardest things about online study for me was missing the comments, questions, and discussions that are part of face to face learning. I love it when I don’t quite get something and the person next to me can explain it in a different way to the teacher, and then it clicks for me.
In the classes I attended, the forum is intended to take the place of this interaction, but it didn't always work well. Some students are too reserved to contribute, or don’t put up questions because they worry it doesn’t show them in a good light. Others are just happy to read the forums but don’t want to participate. When the forums (fora?) are not well used it can be quite isolating for students. I started to think no one else is asking questions because they all get it and I’m the only dumb one, or a more sinister line of thinking, the others are all emailing direct to the teacher and I am missing out. A successful online class fosters an active forum with wide participation, so jump on in.
Another aspect I found hard was linking up with other students. Although I didn’t have any group assignment work, I do love having a chat with other students, giving or getting tips about sources, and even just having a moan about something in the course. From some conversations I’ve had recently with Sydney based students studying at Charles Sturt, they also found that contacting and meeting up with other students locally to form study/support groups was an enormous benefit, and really kept them going. I was lucky enough that some of my online classmates were also in my face to face class in another subject. If your class isn’t fostering this type of interaction, then you need to be the one to reach out. It’s worth the effort.
One final thing I found was that in one subject, I was just so focused on completing the work, that I really didn’t get a good sense of the whole subject. Keeping to the timetable took up a lot of my attention in this subject, and sometimes it just had to be as mechanical as that, as I had to balance other subjects too, and it wasn’t until I started the revision that I began to see the bigger picture. I always like to try to investigate widely on subjects I’m studying because I don’t just want to pass, I want to understand the subject well. Make sure you try to see the forest as well as the trees. Of course, an active forum, and a friendly cohort can help with this.
Have you undertaken online study? What are your best tips and what would you change?