I mentioned ages ago that I took some online classes while I studied in Brazil last spring. Any Ball State student can take online classes, although Distance Education does charge an extra fee. I opted to take some online classes while I was in Brazil because I wanted to take a full course load, but I didn't want all my courses to be in Portuguese. Distance Education gives two online class options: 10-week courses, and 9-month courses. Both my classes (Geography 101 and History 413: Recent American History) were 9 months long. Well, I just finished my lass assignments, and here's what I think:
1. The pace of both my courses was pretty conducive to a hectic life style. Both classes were arranged to have only 2 assignments a month. However, I'm a procrastinator, so I completely put off doing my assignments until the last minute. That meant I had A LOT of work to do over the past two weeks, which kind of sucked. I should have taken the 10-week courses to be more crunched to finished them before this semester started. As it was, you reap what you sow.
2. Taking one of my core science credits online was probably wise. I hate labs, and online classes don't have labs. There was a lot of reading, but honestly, each assignment took less than an hour. I definitely didn't learn nearly as much as I would have had I taken the "real" course on campus, but the class is also one I don't necessarily need for my career. All classes are valuable, but some are occasionally *less* valuable. (I'm wincing as I write this because I'm trying to walk the line between being honest and not encouraging anyone to slack off in a class. . . which I DON'T support!)
3. My Recent American History class was fantastic. Probably one of the most interesting classes I've had. And I really, really like the professor who teaches it. Which sucks because it would have been even better as an on-campus course. Never again will I take a class I'm really interested in online. Never.
4. Some professors "get" the whole online class thing better than others. For example, my history professor gave us a combination of assignments and essays for the course, and each chapter came with a video of my professor sharing a historical "artifact," which we then had to write about. For never seeing my professor face-to-face, the class was really good. It was dynamic, interesting, and varied. Now, take that compared to my science class. Again, it wasn't my favorite topic to study, but the entire class consisted of reading chapter after chapter in a textbook (read: BOR-ring) and answering 30 multiple-choice questions about each one. So yeah, it wasn't the most intellectually challenging course I've had. BUT it was still a good class because it was easy. Some videos would have been nice though. Maybe some demonstrations of the experiments we're not getting since we don't have a lab. Just a thought.
5. Some professors are better at responding to emails than others. If you have a question about the course or are concerned about your grade, you can't necessarily count on the professor getting back to you. And in one sense, why should (s)he? You're taking the class online. Take campus courses if you want interaction.
So, FINAL VERDICT:
If on campus, I wouldn't take online classes; however, it was really convenient to get important course credit while I was abroad. The one exception I have is this: if there's a topic you really don't like--and it's a 100 or 200 level class--then I would consider taking the course online. At least then you don't have to sit through something you hate for three hours a week. An exception to the exception: if you're a procrastinator (like me), don't take online classes. You'll end up with a boat load of work all at once that you may or may not get done.