After all, I’m a full-time undergraduate student, and I live on campus. It would be easy for me to take the traditional on-campus section of POLI 101: State and Local Government. In fact, I was signed up for it until a couple weeks before the semester started. I had several friends who were enrolled in that section with me, and I had even bought my textbook. However, I ultimately decided to switch my on-campus section of the class to the online version over the summer, and I am very happy with my decision.
Here are a few reasons why:
Taking a class online gives me the priceless power of flexibility. I am not bound to learning course content only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 to 10:5o. The power to choose when I learn the material means I can pick a time when I am mentally prepared and most engaged. Admittedly, there are times when I have to force myself to go to a lecture class only to find myself not fully alert and paying attention. It is always frustrating to realize that I spent nearly an hour in class without really absorbing the information.
I also enjoy the flexibility of online classes because I feel that I am in better control of my schedule. I think I can safely call myself a busy person. I write for the student newspaper. I’m an RA. I play a few intramural sports. Plus, I’m taking 18 credit hours this semester to fit in my double major. By taking one of my classes online, I have much more freedom with my schedule and greatly decreased stress levels. I can “go to class” at 9:30 at night or 7:00 in the morning if I need to. Ultimately, the ability to choose when I work on my POLI 101 course work has allowed me to manage all of my responsibilities and commitments this semester.
2. Increased Participation
One of my least favorite things about on-campus classes are the large lectures. I tend to feel lost in the crowd when I’m sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of other students. My original POLI 101 class was also supposed to be a large lecture class. I thrive in a smaller class atmosphere based on conversation. For me, it’s hard to stay attentive and really grasp the information if I have to sit and listen to the professor lecture for an hour.
Frequent discussion of course material helps me learn and see how course concepts apply to the real world. In my online section of POLI 101, I learn the information through readings and posts my professor uploads. Online, I have the time to take in the information and dissect it. Then, I can apply the information in the required discussion board posts on Sakai. I prefer the engagement of the online class format more than the passive format of an on-campus lecture.
3. Unique Perspectives
The biggest thing I’ve gained from taking the online version of POLI 101 is the diverse perspectives of my classmates. Often in a traditional lecture class, only the most outspoken students speak. The very interactive aspect of using discussion board posts in my online class means that I’ve gotten the unique opportunity to hear the opinions of all my classmates. I would never have this opportunity in a traditional lecture format. I get to read their thoughts and perspectives on what we’ve learned in class, which in turn challenges my own opinions and ensures that I’ve mastered the material myself. Overall, I think the ability for every classmate to post their opinions has greatly enhanced my online learning experience.
Although cliche, I think I can liken my decision to take an online class to the famous Robert Frost Poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”