Wish I'd Known...
The comments quoted below were posted on the Discussion
Board in a number of Bellevue College (BC) online classes (English,
Math, Anthropology, Psychology, etc.) in response
to the question, "What do you wish you
had known before taking a college credit course
online?" Some of the comments
have been edited for spelling and length, but many
are just as they were posted.
These may help you decide whether you want to take
an online course and how best to succeed if you
decide to go for it.
This is my fourth quarter taking online
courses, and my second english class online, so
I already knew what I was in for. However, when
I first signed up for an online class, I wish
I had realized how much time it took. All of
the discussions can take a lot of time. In my class
this quarter for instance, there have already been
over 2,500 postings, and now people are posting
about 75 a day, since it's nearing the end of the
quarter. I also wish I had known how much self-motivation
it takes to do well in an online class. By now
I've gotten it down, but it was hard at first to
treat it like a normal class and sign on at least
once a day. When I first began I only checked every
few days, now I have to check multiple times a day
so that I don't become overwhelmed.
What surprised me about an on-line class is that
the interaction was really a good deal greater than
most on-campus classes I've had. Everyone had
to post at least one question/insight per book plus
at least four comments on other posts. Although
a few of us did way more, just about everyone contributed
a decent amount to the discussions whereas in some
on-campus classes there are a few people who do
all the talking while many people either can't get
a word in edgewise or just stare out the window.
So I guess to sum up my on-line class experience,
and what I wish I had known:
The time you save not going to campus will easily
be used on getting your work done if you want
to do well.
- Interaction with other classmates can actually
be greater than that in on campus classes.
You definitely need to handle your time wisely
and keep on top of your work. That aspect is built
in to a class you attend in person, but for on-line
classes it all falls to you.
That last bit was something I was used to. Before my
youngest was in elementary school I did some catch-up
classes via telecourses and was very used to the self-directed
aspect, but I think that does surprise a lot of people.
I do highly recommend on-line classes, and since I'll
be transferring soon I wish UW offered more of them! Since
I live on the Eastside I think I would actually save some
time with those.
I wish I had known exactly how it worked before
I took my first online class. I've found that the
communication between students and instructors gets
really frustrating some times. If you have a question
it usually takes at the very least a couple of hours
to get an answer. This is not anyone's fault, it's
just the way the system works. Also if your computer
isn't working properly it can create some very frustrating
situations. In my first online class my instructor
delegated all of my e-mails by accident. As a result,
when grade time came it looked like I had turned
in nothing, so I failed. It was partly my fault
for not keeping hard copies on my computer but I
learned from that mistake and haven't had any problems
since. On the plus side I like how you can do your
work anytime you want. I don't have to rearrange
my work schedule around class time and I can work
in my own free time. All in all I would say the
positives overtake the negatives and I will probably
continue to take online classes.
I wish I had just known...oh how I wish....
This was my first online class. I thought that it
would be good to take an English class online, as
I have a lot of faith in my ability in the English
department. I was a bit scared to start taking online
classes, overwheled you could say. I knew that
I would be alone, alone to do my work, without anyone
else to harrass me or throw spit wads at me.
I knew that I would not get anything out of looking
at the clock and saying "only 17.667 more minutes
of class left". I also knew that I would not have
to worry about not bringing food or drink to class.
I did not know that I would spill a drink all
over my keyboard and ruin it though. I wish
I would have known that.
I wish I would have known it would be so hot
today; I would have written this yesterday.
About the course itself, It was pretty much how
I expected. I can't really think of anything that
was a major surprise. It did take me a couple weeks
to get in the groove, but once I got there, I feel
as if I have done well. Missing the first week was
tough as well. I wish I had a faster computer.
With Kazaa downloading songs all the time on
a 56K modem its hard to wait for class work to load.
I wish I would have known to get DSL. Maybe next
time. Yeah...maybe next time...
(It's Screenwriter Guild for him, next year,
for sure ~ Editor)
I think that online classes are the
greatest thing ever. As I sit here in my hotel in San
Francisco, I realize that I would have never of had the
opportunity to get my degree while working and traveling
full time, if it wasn't for online classes. Online
classes also have allowed me to gain more independence
and discipline in my life. This isn't like going to class
everyday and having the teacher explain to you numerous
times when homework and tests are going to be. You have
to be dedicated enough to keep your on schedule and get
your tasks done on time or you will definitely fail.
that I could offer is that in a class setting it is much
easier to watch the teacher lecture or do problems and
ask questions out loud and hear responses. While online,
you only have e-mail and notes to go off of, although
you can schedule a meeting time with your teacher to go
over the material. So when you could be in a class seeing
live visuals, you now rely solely on the textbook and
the notes. This makes it a challenge, but a challenge
that I am willing to sacrifice in order to graduate and
I really enjoy taking online courses.
I have an 11 month old baby and it makes it a lot easier
on my fiance and me. I work days, my fiance works nights,
so I do my classes after the baby goes to sleep. I
feel that online courses are wonderful for parents who
don't want to use daycare. One thing everyone should
know about online courses: you have to be a self learner
and dedicated. If you are the type of person who has
to go to class everyday in order to get your schoolwork
done, online courses might not be the best option. Good
luck to anyone deciding to take online courses. I definitely
Online classes are the only way that
I am able to work full time, spend time with my family,
and then burn the midnight oil to get some homework done.
They offer so much more flexibility than a traditional
day or night class. The most difficult thing about
online courses is being self disciplined. It is easy
to fall behind and once you do that, it's very difficult
to catch up. I have taken several classes online. Instead
of just dealing with words, you are dealing with concepts,
and if you just don't "get it" you have to either post
a question and wait for a response or keep trying to figure
it out on your own. You can't just raise your hand and
ask for clarification. All in all, it is well worth the
extra effort to have the ability to do my class work on
my own schedule rather than having to sit in a classroom
several nights a week.
I think online classes are the greatest
thing ever invented. They allow for so much flexibility.
My words of advice would definitely be, just because it's
online, don't be afraid to ask questions of your classmates
or the professor, that's what they're there for. Although
you may not get immediate response, be vocal. If you ask
a lot of questions in a regular class, ask them in an
online class. The benefit is that more you will be far
more likely to have several responses rather than just
that of the professor. Aside from the obvious, having
to be self-disciplined. If you are afraid of computers
in any way shape or form, this is not the venue for you.
If you have never used the internet, stay in the real
classroom. I have some very intelligent friends who can't
even begin to comprehend the format this class has taken
for me and it's simply because they are not computer aware.
It's also very important to be aware whether your class
requires any on-campus attendance for proctored tests
or lab participation. If you can overcome those obstacles
or at least realize they exist, online courses are an
While I am a big fan of online courses,
I have picked up a few things over the past year that
may help first-timers avoid trouble.
1) Beware of Vista downtime. The server is up most
of the time. But, like any other computer application,
it will always crash when you need it most. So, don't
wait until the last minute to get assignments in. The
instructors are usually very understanding, but if you've
known about an assignment for two weeks, its not a very
good excuse that the system was down in the last ten minutes
before it was due.
2) Check the syllabus for on-campus requirements.
Some courses will require at least occasional visits to
the campus. Both of the courses I've taken which had this
requirement also allowed for proctors, but you need to
be prepared for this up front.
3) You need to be computer savvy, not just computer
literate. If you only know how to turn the thing on
and type Instant Messages or chat, you are going to have
trouble. In every course I've taken this year, there has
been at least one person who has struggled because they
have minimal computer skills. There are probably more
people out there in the same situation, but only a few
have publicly admitted it. If you are not comfortable
with using the internet and MS Office software, you could
be in trouble.
4) On-line does not equal easy. In fact, classes
may be tougher because of the lack of personal interaction.
You can't raise your hand and get a question answered
immediately (well, you could raise your hand, but you'd
look pretty silly doing it alone in front of your computer).
You can get your questions answered, but you need to be
prepared to wait until someone else logs on and sees your
question. If you are someone who has always asked lots
of questions in class, stick to brick & mortar.
5) My final tip. Don't take an incredibly challenging
course as your first on-line class. Find a subject
that you are relatively comfortable with, and make that
your first on-line experience. Then, as you take more
challenging courses, you will already be familiar with
the on-line system, and you won't spend a lot of valuable
time learning how to learn. Looking back over the last
year, I don't think anything I've experienced would have
changed my decision to take classes online. But, hopefully
this will helps others make a better informed decision
before they dive in.
1. Remember that e-mail or bulletin
board postings always seem ruder than the author intended.
That is the nature of communicating without being able
to hear the speaker's inflections and see facial expressions.
Be very careful with your written communication. This
is the only way your classmates and instructor will know
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Most
college classes require careful thought and discussion
to ensure understanding of topics. The online environment
puts you at an automatic disadvantage. The only way to
overcome this is to take it upon yourself to start discussions.
Use the bulletin boards as chat rooms. Ask questions.
3. But remember that everyone can and will read what
you post. A brave but foolish classmate waged a war
of words in a previous class. It doesn't make a good impression
on your English instructor to call a classmate pretty
much of a jerk.
4. Make sure you understand the instructor's expectations
up front. Each class has different requirements. For
example, some classes provide a schedule, showing when
each assignment should be worked on. Others just give
due dates and assume you'll figure it out. Be sure to
spend your first days in class exploring the entire WebCT
5. Online classes require self-discipline. If
you need someone nagging you about due dates and homework
assignments, you're going to struggle.
6.Group projects are a lot harder when you're
not able to meet face-to-face.
7.Don't assume everyone taking online classes is taking
them for the same reasons you are. You're going to get
different levels of participation from someone dedicated
to earning their degree online and someone who couldn't
get into a "regular" class.
1.) Begin taking classes that you
already have an interest in. For every degree, there
are classes that one will enjoy and classes that will
not be very enjoyable to the student. If the student is
already interested (excited) about learning the material
than he or she is probably more self motivated to work
2.) Don't think that an online class is easier;
it's not. It is easier on the commute to and from campus
but that's it. Online classes require self dedication
3.) In the first few days of the class make sure that
you navigate through all aspects of the site before getting
too deeply involved with the course material. Many
times a student's question is already answered in some
form on the site but the student (like me) did not take
the time to thoroughly read all course materials.
4.) WebCT has frequent downtime especially very early
in the morning (3:00-5:00) so beware if you work odd hours
and this is your study/interaction time.
5.) I don't find that the chat rooms help that well for
analytical subjects such as math or statistics. Being
able to articulate one's analytical thoughts with mathematical
characters online coupled with typos can be very frustrating.
However, the chat rooms do work great where they're used
explicitly for sharing ideas--history, sociology, and
First, I'd say if you are going to order
your books online, order them early ...perhaps even
before signing up for the class, that way you know you
have them before the class begins.
Second, become familiar
with the way the course program works. Practice helps.
Third, when composing
discussion messages as part of your assignment, make them
substantive--not a message that says, "good job". That
won't get you points from the teacher and isn't helpful
to your fellow students.
Fourth, when evaluating
another students work as part of the class, submit
it back to the student on time or early, to give them
enough time to revise their work.
Fifth, Don't get verbally
abusive when you differ from another student on an
opinion. There was someone in my last class whom I hated
to see on the board responding to one of my messages--very
distracting and unhelpful.
Sixth, talk to the instructor
if you're having problems. Email them, let them know
you're having trouble--I've always found them to be very
helpful and generous with their time. Also, because of
my job situation I've had to ask for some help, I give
them something, like submitting an assignment early and
then ask for an extension to take a quiz. That way I think
they know I am serious about the class and wouldn't take
advantage of them and their generosity.
Seventh, and most important,
participate in the discussion boards. You won't
learn and neither will your classmates if you don't actively
participate. I'm sure there are more, but I think that
is all for now.
There are several ways to be successful
on taking online courses.
1.) Prepare to work hard. It is a lot different than
attending classes. You do not have an instructor in
front of you explaining everything.
2.) Be Self-Motivated. In order to succeed in
the online course format you have to be motivated to do
the work. You cannot just do assignments the day they
are due. Make sure you leave plenty of time to work.
3.) Talk to your peers. Use the discussion boards
to help each other understand a section of the text or
lectures. The more you help each other the more successful
you will be.
4.) Be thankful. The online class method is a convenience
for you. If you are like me and work full-time you
do not want to be away from your home more than needed.
5.) Stay focused. Work in an atmosphere where
you can concentrate. Don't have your computer in front
of a television for it will be distracting. If you do
all these things you will be successful.
6.) I have read on another student's posting to order
your books early. I would agree with this.
I wish that I had known that computers are not
always reliable...(i.e. they freeze, stall,
break down...) my advice is to always, always, always
have a back up plan just in case something goes
wrong during your quizzes...do NOT wait until the
last moment to take your quiz. also, out of common
courtesy do NOT wait until the last minute to post
your discussion because you will leave others hanging...and,
like Frank said, prepare yourself for a lot of self-motivated
work because the lack of interaction with the instructor
will leave you totally on your own. but have fun.
it is very very convenient to be learning on your
There are a few very important things
that i learned about online classes this quarter that
would be very helpful to incoming students.
1. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! This would be my number
one! don't think you can get on at like 11:00 the night
before something is due and try to do all of it! Is is
impossible, trust me, and very frustrating. Space out
all of your work during the week so you are not rushing
yourself and i guarantee you will get a better grade!
2. Participate in discussions a lot! Not just
because you have to, but it is really helpful to get advice
from other students and very helpful for other students
as well to get advice from you.
3. Study for quizzes! Even though you have your
book right in front of you, if you only have 30 minutes
it is impossible to go through everything to find all
the answers if you haven't studied! Don't take being able
to use your book during tests for granted.
4. Get used to the way WEBCT works early, because
if it is your first quarter doing online classes it can
be very confusing! GOOD LUCK
There is really nothing that I did not
know before I started this online class. I have taken
a lot of them. There is one thing that I think everyone
should know...is to look at the syllabus. They are
attached there for a reason. Then you know what you are
getting yourself into and how time consuming the class
will be. That helped me greatly in choosing a class. Other
schools don't post the syllabus so you don't know until
you start the class.
I wish I had known how much learning
I would have to do on my own. Tests are derived directly
from the book and although there is discussion in the
"classroom" you don't really get any lectures. With on
campus classes, I think teachers tend to talk more about
what they will be testing on and what they think is more
important. Online, you basically cover the entire book
and it is up to you to either do it or not. You will not
do well if you don't so make time for it. Also, online
classes go on a direct schedule so if you're someone who
needs a lot of flexibility, this format isn't for you.
On the other hand, this class is great for someone who
feels that on campus courses go at the pace of the entire
group, which may be too fast or slow for the individual.
Personally, I love online classes and take as many as
I can. I like to be organized and plan out my week so
I like knowing exactly when things are due week by week.
It is also for someone who can learn things on their own.
Lastly, if you are worried about not being good with computers,
don't worry about it because WebCT's format is very easy
~ the end