Online courses help students advance toward degree

(Lily Choi | The Oswegonian)
(Lily Choi | The Oswegonian)

When registering for classes, MyOswego told me I was registering as a first semester senior as opposed to a second semester junior. Most people may have been surprised at that statement, but not me. However, I was surprised to learn I would be registering for classes one day earlier than some people in my graduating class. I did bring in six credits from high school with AP economics and AP United States history, but online classes were the driving force behind the push for earlier registration. I have completed four online classes, all of them needed to graduate, and am taking a fifth one this upcoming winter; that is one full semester of work.

It is nearly Thanksgiving break and the work seems to be piling up, but eventually it will be finals week and everyone will go home and do whatever they need to relax. Those who want to keep the mind sharp, catch up on schoolwork, or try to get ahead in their studies are likely to take online courses. For this upcoming winter session, there are 77 courses offered in 34 different areas of study. Difficulty levels range from 100 level classes to 1000 level classes.

The concept of online classes is quite simple; take an entire course in three or six weeks, depending on the class and the time of year. One reason to take an online class as opposed to on campus is the time length. Since it is three weeks long, the material covered is more important and direct. Second, the structure is different. Instead of writing a long final paper, there may be more “shorter” quizzes or tests to compensate; discussion forums are fairly common for online classes as well. If that makes you cringe, have no fear; the textbook should be right beside you. Also, the PowerPoint resources are a big help for clarification.

Having a classroom in the comfort of your own home is another bonus. We all know the weather is terrible up here in February, but work for an online class can be completed anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection. Finally, you can set your own pace to a degree. Assignments still have a due date but if you plan, you can finish assignments whenever you have free time.

An online class that is a prerequisite for another class is the best case scenario. Say I need to take introduction to statistics before I can take operations management or corporate finance but I do not want to take that next semester because the time slots conflict. With the statistics class over the winter, I can take three weeks to focus on that one class and complete it so I can take the other two classes without an issue in the spring.

There are some shortcomings with these classes. With the classes being online and less restrictive, students tend to forget to do assignments and rack up some zeros, thus hurting their class average and overall GPA. Some assignments are discussion based and not responding can cost you participation points. Another talking point is that you may not retain any information from these classes because of the cramming and content. The lack of face-to-face contact can make the course more challenging because students may have to send multiple emails to be clear on what they are having trouble with. Angel (the web program) has a tendency to incorrectly deduct points for fill-in-the blank responses if not typed exactly the way Angel has it logged.

If you decide that the positives outweigh the negatives, then I would advise you take up a class that matters in some way, shape or form. Do not take a class for the sake of getting three extra credit hours. If you are looking for a prerequisite class and it happens to be online, then it can be worth your time to take so you can save yourself the trouble of taking it later during the semester or later in your college career. If it is upper division and the topic interests you, then it is worth it. Every student needs upper division classes outside their major to graduate so take advantage. Online classes have made it so I have the option to graduate a semester early and they have served me well.