As evidenced by my B.A. in English and M.A. in English literature, I love studying. I study for fun, researching anything that I happen to be interested in at the moment through books and magazines. Given my desire to always be learning, taking classes online may seem to make a lot of sense.
An online class lets you study from anywhere, whether it be curled up at home on the couch or with a warm mug of something at a coffee shop. Doesn’t that sound romantic? Yet, the inviting perks aside, the reality of studying online means being willing to spend long hours on the computer, reading so much that you have to say no to fun activities with friends, and forgoing the usual connections and insights that come in the environment of the classroom. While the long hours studying are not unusual for any degree, the lack of social interaction is. I’m an introvert, but I’m also social. I learn a lot from talking to other people and having experiences. To succeed at online education, I had to learn how to adapt my learning style to a virtual classroom.
First, I had to recreate the variety that comes from moving around a campus and going into different rooms to learn. This may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to learning, but I enjoy walking to classes and thinking on the way. I like sitting in different rooms and the variety that comes with exploring campus buildings.
So, I had to learn to be flexible about where in my house I watched lectures, posted in online discussions, and attended group meetings over Google Hangouts. I’ve done work in my office, living room, kitchen, and even outside on my deck!
Second, I found it important to talk to other students online, but I also realized I could talk to the people around me to share what I was learning. I had opportunities to talk to my husband, friends at church, my longtime friends, and family. This reinforced what I was learning by helping me to state what my classes were going over in my own words. I could share passages from the books I read with my husband and tell friends about assignments in my classes.
These two practices helped me to enjoy the process of online learning more.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6