3 years ago I posted about my prerogative to study online! It was going to be the most amazing and empowering experience of my life! I was going to earn a degree! Study in my PJ pants! Fast track to the finish line! I was going to save money and time and be rich for both! It was going to be THE BEST THING EVER!
So what really happened? The whole thing was a mess. A farce. A scam. A huge let down and shameful embarrassment. Read on.
Technical Difficulties? Yes Please!
So I enrolled at RMIT in a Bachelor of some sort of Development (bare with me this was years ago) that required no previous knowledge or experience, and I eagerly awaited the start of my course while visiting my best friend in South Australia. The start date rolled around and I couldn’t log in. So I called technical support…..every day for the first 3 weeks. There was some sort of error with usernames containing an R or an 8, and mine contained both. My user ID wasn’t enrolled properly. There were permissions issues with the new course software. The list was endless. By the time I got into my course everyone had been studying for 3 weeks for their first major assignment….due in 2 days.
Teachers Are AFK, Leave a Message!
I didn’t expect my teachers to be available 24/7 but I did expect them to log in once a day. I sent an email explaining the situation to both units teachers. One was intro to computers and the other was Java development. By the time I had access to the course material and my units it was over 3 weeks in, and before that they would not give me my teachers emails so I could ask them to send me the materials themselves.
Intro to computers emailed me back right away. It’s all good, don’t worry, just read the material and you can have a 3 day extension. A THREE DAY EXTENSION. I actually printed out the reading material so I could highlight it and I used LITERALLY half a packet of paper. I had 3-4 days to read that, and write up a “user guide” which answers 100 or more questions. You’re kidding?
My Java teacher was AFK. Permanently. I’d like to send him coal one Christmas because he has no idea how much he made the whole experience feel even more awful than it was. The constant anxiety, stress, and feeling like crap because he wouldn’t message me back for anything sent me into a black hole. It was awful and it played a huge part in my failure.
Everything Was On A Whole New Level…
When you’re in the classroom the lectures go at the pace of the slowest learners. You know who they are because they understand nothing and you hate them for it when you want to plough ahead and bite hungrily into a subject, and love them for it when you really just don’t want to deal with a subject. Online it’s the complete opposite. They go at the pace of the smartest learners, and the new, inexperienced, or slow learners are drowned out completely; most even drop out. I got a huge look into being on the “idiot” side of the fence and karma sure served me a heaping bowl of my own medicine let me tell you.
Everyone was smarter than me. EVERYONE. They were talking so technical I had to google every single line of their posts. That’s not even remotely a joke. I couldn’t even read the words, it was like text speak to a grandma…or hieroglyphics almost! I had to decipher every phrase and try to piece it together. It was so difficult. My only shining moment of glory was that the textbook was wrong on a design thing and I was able to correct it. I felt like I had gained a little headway but honestly there’s no way I could have kept up with the pace of things, let alone how technical they were.
You Can’t Go The Extra Mile. Ever.
So remember that assignment? I read those pages until my brain was fuzzy. I was thinking in static, I had understood about 90% of what was written, and it was an introduction but overly technical and I remember sitting there hoping it didn’t get worse. So I began to decipher my assignment. It said exactly “create a user manual which answers the following questions”. So I sat there and thought about what that meant.
In high school you learned that writing questions with answers was a no no. You had to write them “in paragraph form”, re-stating the question in the answer so you didn’t have to write the question by itself. Since I had not done anything different since Primary School I assumed my user manual should answer these questions in it. So I created a user manual.
It was BEAUTIFUL. I designed the pages. I used InDesign to construct it. If I had printed it someone would have paid me for it. I answered all the questions, included diagrams and illustrations, and more. I even over-explained. It was stunning. I handed it in, expecting to get a 90% or above…and I got a D. I cried.
I asked my teacher what happened, I didn’t understand. Was I really this stupid? He responded that I hadn’t answered my questions. I replied that I had, and I had put them all through the book like the assignment asked for. He made me highlight the answers and put numbers next to them and send them back…so I guess he didn’t want read any assignments. He said wanted what I did, with the questions at the back answered in question-answer form as well.
So I got a C. Because it was too flashy. I had put too much effort in and they wanted just something plain. What? Can’t you follow an assignment’s instructions at all?!
It’s a Complete Mess.
By the end of the unit I was so frazzled I was begging for a break. I got one between the terms, and had to re-enrol into my Java course. I had to complete that unit on its own because I couldn’t continue due to pre-requisites. I figured it was probably a good thing because the book was so advanced I had no idea what I was reading, and I was exhausted…I needed to slow it down a bit.
Well it wasn’t a good thing. I couldn’t get any of the programs to work right, I didn’t understand a lick of what was being said, and the teacher didn’t give a damn about whether or not I was having trouble, understood, or emailing him. And guess what? I missed the first 2 weeks because they had trouble enrolling me into the unit again! So I started behind, was unable to catch up even after fixing the programs, the teacher never ever responded to me ever, and I fell flat on my face.
So I quit.
It Turns Out, The Classroom Is More My Thing
I’m not the most organised of people. Of my 3 drawer desk I have 2 junk draws. I can make a schedule but I have a lot of trouble sticking to it. I can follow a timetable/roster but not my own plans, so perhaps I am missing some crucial skill in making workable schedules!
I was struggling to keep up. I had a lot of trouble understanding, finding help, and gaining access. This slowed me down and warped my scheduling considerably and there was not enough time in the day to reach the next ladder rung and hoist myself up to where everyone else was at.
I really thrive off of notes and off of lectures. I found it hard to take notes from online, so I just marked up the books. Today I am still studying online (not at RMIT) but I don’t print anything out, instead I make notes in a notebook and that works so much better. Also everyone in the course is super friendly and helpful, so even if the teacher is not there they help (and he checks in every day!).
I also learn a lot better when I can get immediate clarification or converse with a teacher as they lecture. Yeah, I’m one of those people. But at least I rarely ask stupid questions, and I’m not the type to ask a question they’ve already answered.
It wasn’t for me, or at least not in all cases (this current course I am studying is much nicer and progressing well). Try it if you want to….but if it doesn’t work for you get the hell out of there. Find another solution or another online course. There’s night school, part time, full time…all sorts of different study options…don’t tie yourself into one….and look for a flexible self paced course. The course I went into claimed to be self paced but had millions of deadlines, start and end dates, and there was nothing self paced about it. You couldn’t go on ahead if you wanted to, you had to move with the herd. It’s not something I found enjoyable and ended up costing me thousands in debt.
So that’s what happened with my online education adventure!