By Glenn Fredenburg, September 2015
Online learning is similar to on-ground education in several ways, such as buying the textbooks and learning the materials, but here are some key differences to be prepared for.
1. In class, we would meet for coffee and file in to the lecture hall to get the power-point handouts and watch the lecture on the chapters only half of us had read. We had all received the syllabus on Day One of class and some of us had budgeted time for the reading and skills labs, while others went out on weekends and hoped to catch up a couple hundred pages on Sunday or before class Monday.
As an online student, you also have a syllabus and need to budget time for readings and supplemental readings or lectures. However, you do NOT have someone sitting just to your right reading the book as the teacher covers the materials; there will be no other prompting than what you give yourself to get the work done on time. You become your own conscience and get to pester yourself to put down the magazine and pick up your textbook.
2. On-ground students form “study groups” and meet to cover materials; if you gloss over a chapter you might be able to glean the highlights from their notes.
As an online student you still need to form connections with the other students, just not necessarily at the local coffee spot. Thanks to technology, even with classmates scattered across the country, we CAN meet in virtual study-groups. I encourage you to make those personal connections with others in your class who might want to review the same material, even when the logistics of planning time on a day you both have free from your jobs and lives can be intimidating.
3. On-ground you can ask the teacher questions in real-time during lectures, to clarify ideas and concepts as they occur to you.
As an online student you still have access to your professors, just through email (mainly) or phone, skype, chat, etc. Instead of immediately, your answer may be delayed by up to 24 hours (the professors need to sleep, apparently), which can be a bit more frustrating for those who need real-time answers.
4. On-ground students may need to drive to and from campus in the winter, freezing their hands scraping a windshield and getting snow in their boots pushing their car out of a snow drift in the campus parking lot.
As an online student, you will NOT have that experience getting to and from class, as you simply need to boot up your computer and log on to Engage! Yet, what happens if you’re travelling and don’t have internet access? You still have to be ready to adapt to factors that may interrupt your access to class.
5. Need coffee or a bathroom break?
As an online student you can pause the lecture to go get a fresh cup of coffee or to void that full bladder! You can also pause the lecture when family issues interrupt; something you cannot do in an on-ground class – instructors hate when you point a remote control at them and hit a pause button, lol.
As an online student you remain responsible for things like reading and comprehending the material and completing deadlines on time. The teachers are just as accessible, it’s just that their office hours are an email away. The bottom line is that online students have to take a different approach to the activities and habits that lead to success.
About the Author
Glenn Fredenburg has been a Registered Nurse for over 13 years, coming to the profession after a career in sales. His experience in nursing has been primarily in the critical care setting, with over ten years in the emergency room and intensive care areas. His mother is a retired nurse and urged him early in life to "become a nurse" because it's rewarding helping others heal and using your complete "toolbox" of skills to aid in the recovery of body and mind. In hindsight, his mother was right. Don't tell her.