Welcome to “Prompts,” brief overviews of settings, themes, plot ideas, or other details you may want to use in your short stories, songs, novels, poems, or visual art project. Today, we explore online classes.
Artists are promoting their work and meeting fans and fellow artists online more and more, and the art produced reflects that. Everything from poems to songs to novels to comedy routines may include references or even entire settings related to online communities. Online classes and online schools have been around for more than a decade, but there are many things people do not know about them. If you decide to set your next project in an online classroom or school, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Online classes involve interaction with other people.
Instruction may be given through discussion boards, class chats or online meetings, or recorded lessons. Discussion boards operate much like older style internet forums. Assignments and/or questions are posted by the instructor and the students, to be answered whenever someone logs in. Online meetings or classes are similar to chat rooms or group chats, except that at least one person, usually the teacher, is speaking into a microphone or appearing live on streaming video. Recorded lessons may be audio or video, and are made and posted for the students to view later.
Online courses and programs are designed for students and instructors who cannot attend offline classes for whatever reason, not for people who want to avoid human contact. There is plenty of that in an online class.
Schedules are still necessary when teaching or taking an online class.
Online meetings may be scheduled at certain times. Instructors and students are expected to log in to these meetings at the same time they would be expected to walk into the classroom for an offline class. Even if a class has no scheduled components, there will still be due dates for assignments that must be met. A class in which each individual student sets his or her own due dates in consultation with the instructor is an independent study, not a traditional class, whether it’s held online or offline.
Online classes do not isolate you from everyone, but they do isolate you from people not directly involved in your class.
Students in an online course must interact with each other, but unless the school also has an offline campus nearby, or has set up an online student lounge or social forum, they may never meet anyone who does not take the same classes as them.
Instructors communicate with their students and their supervisors, but interaction with others in their department may be limited. Some schools remedy this by holding optional meetings or online gatherings to discuss teaching methods. They may also offer online social space for their students.
Social media is used as a way to interact with classmates or faculty from online schools.
There may be no hallways to walk or the opportunity to meet someone in a completely different department by hanging out in the faculty or student lounge, but that same environment can be somewhat duplicated by visiting the school’s social media pages. Students from a specific university can follow or like the school’s facebook page, or join a facebook group for students from their school, and meet each other online.
“The dog ate my homework” is alive and well and has made a smooth transition into the world of online learning.
Students who have not completed their work on time or studied for a test for whatever reason have always trotted out tales of misery and heartache to get better grades, more time to work on an assignment or take the test, or other special treatment from the instructor. Claiming technical issues is the most common online version of “the dog ate my homework.” The old classic, “My grandmother died” works for online classes too, although, thanks to social networking, the stories have begun to vary a bit more.
Before I started teaching online, I briefly worked as a teaching assistant in another university’s writing lab. Part of my job involved being assigned to instructors’ courses to grade their papers and tutor their students. One week, I received a series of five messages in a row, all from different students, claiming someone in their life was “in the hospital.”
Online classes and schools are not all scams, but some are.
Online education has the unfortunate reputation of being sub par, or even completely useless. People believe these are places where you can simply log on, pay your money, and be told you’re wonderful at whatever subject you choose and have earned a degree. In some cases, that is absolutely true. Diploma mills that would have advertised in the backs of magazines in the past have indeed gone online.
It has always been important to research a school before enrolling, but special care must be taken in the world of online learning. It is simply too easy to create a website that looks like it belongs to a real school. Writing a song, short story, play, or novel in which a character went into debt signing up for several expensive courses, only to soon realize they were being offered by a sham web site and not the school he thought he was attending would be a completely realistic project.
Even among accredited online schools and classes, reputations vary.
Universities ranging in reputation from the Ivy League, small private colleges, large private universities, state schools, community colleges, and institutions of higher learning that fit any other category may have online campuses or at least online degree programs or course offerings. A program is not necessarily a great program because they have the technology to offer so much study online. At the same time, the program is not necessarily a bad program because it’s “an online program.” Quality and reputation ranges from the school many people wish they could attend all the way down to the school that will make your career prospects worse instead of better, just like offline schools and programs.
Online educators are often treated as though they do not have real jobs.
This is common for anyone who works from home, though it is lessening a bit after so many people were forced to work from home last year. Friends think you are available to babysit kids and pets, run errands, or have a two hour phone or Facebook chat about the weather because “you’re home all day.” Family members picture you lounging on the couch watching Netflix all day while you punch a few keys on your computer and get money.
But like all legitimate online work, teaching online for an accredited school with a strong reputation involves actual work. It is a real job. There are lessons to prepare, papers and other school work to grade, classroom discussion boards and online chats to monitor, meetings to attend or listen to, time spent helping students with their academic work, and other duties of a college instructor.