A Virtual Classroom Experience

I’m not bringing you a list of reviewed websites this week because I’ve had no extra time to surf. I have, however, spent considerable time online. In a virtual classroom.

Last May, I found out about an online learning opportunity offered for zero dollars by the Small Business Administration. Six intensive sessions of several subjects were being “given away” to the first 2400 people who signed up. I was among the lucky ones who managed to register successfully for a class titled, “Creating Web Pages.” And back in May, the only opening that was left was for the session that began September 21. Other offerings included subjects such as “Creating a Business Plan” “Accounting for Small Business,” and many more. The temptation was to sign up for as many as possible.

Good thing I didn’t.

I am presently two-thirds of the way through the six-week, two-classes-a-week program. And believe me when I say this isn’t a breezy tutorial that you can log on to whenever you feel like it. No, sireeee. The online education program is administered by Ed2go (www.ed2go.com), a business that contracts with local colleges to offer a multitude of classes via the Internet.
My class consists of 12 lessons–two per week. First, we read the equivalent of anywhere from 15 to 25 pages of material for each lesson. Then we take a quiz to see how well we’ve grasped the material. Then we do an assignment. Each assignment involves writing successively more complex html code, which is then automatically validated for correctness or errors. What started at writing about 40 lines of code in the beginning is now up to about 80 lines. Plus, there is a “pile” of supplemental, recommended reading to review. Much of that is posted elsewhere on the ‘net.

I fell behind most of the other class members, who seem to be able to tackle the next lesson as soon as it’s posted. Until today, I was four lessons behind because of the many other things I have to attend to during a normal weekday. But since we’ve been advised by our online teacher not to fall too far behind, I decided to cram four lessons into a 24-hour period. That is because, when the lessons are over, we still have to take a final exam in order to receive certification. The final is just two weeks away.

For those of you who’ve dreamed of sitting in your pajamas and earning a degree at home via distance learning, or via an online program such as the one I am in, be warned. It’s just as much work (maybe more, if your teacher is a White Sox fan) as sitting in a classroom in a bricks-and-mortar building. The advantages of virtual schooling include not spending any money on gas to get you to class, and yes, you can sit at your computer buck naked if you want (but please turn off your webcam). You don’t have to set your alarm clock to get to class on time, either.

I have a “real” teacher whose name is Craig Powers. I know him only through the Internet. Ditto with my classmates. We have a discussion area for each lesson where we can post questions and comments. All via keyboard, not vocally. That’s okay. It works for me fine. I don’t have to be rude if I don’t want to join in on any particular discussion. But, I’ve still gained valuable information from my classmates—similar to when you sit around the lounge at school and chat and network.

I’m glad to have had this opportunity to delve into the world of a “real” online classroom. The lessons have been carefully structured and we follow an outline (or syllabus), just like in a regular classroom. The teacher does not have to grade papers. Instead, he uses computer wizardry (javascript) to formulate our quizzes. He can have 400 class members and not worry about discipline problems.

From a consumer’s point of view, I’ve found my experience gratifying so far. But then, you might want to ask me again after I’ve taken that final exam


~ by IndianaDunesPoet on October 16, 2005.

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