I have been taking online classes this semester; Trigonometry, Intro to Web Page Creation, and Java I. All three have been a challenge, but that’s what one expects from college courses. What I didn’t expect is that my experience with the online course format would suck so much joy out of the whole thing. It has taken me until now—three quarters of the way through the semester—to let go of the grade and just be happy learning whatever I can.
This is the first time I’ve taken online courses, and it turns out that studying all the material at home by myself can be done, but it’s not the most efficient. I finally went out and hooked up with some tutors (mathletic friends and, once, the school tutoring lab). For me, an hour studying with a tutor is worth five hours of studying by myself. But the tutoring is a limited resource, and I still have to get through the remainder of the semester mainly on my own. I doubt I’ll choose online courses again. There is almost no scenario I can think of that would make it worth the tremendous effort it requires from me.
I’m not totally “letting go of the grade.” I think it helps to keep in mind what score I’m aiming for, especially when I may not pass if I don’t get a high enough score, at this point. It’s good to have a number that I’m aiming for. But if I don’t hit it, that doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard, or that I’ve wasted my time, or that I’m pursuing the wrong degree. I’m not going to let my anxiety over the grade overshadow every part of my experience with the class. I’m detaching myself somewhat from the outcome and focusing on the process. Even though it takes me hours to finish half of a Trig assignment, it’s so satisfying to get those handful of right answers. I’m cramming bits of Trig into my brain, bit by bit.
This is different than what I do at work, and my work process keeps wanting to kick in—if a deliverable is at risk, evaluate and adjust one of the legs of the project. Add resources, add time, or reduce quality. The semester is a fixed length, of course, so I started cutting out more social time and rest; sometimes staying up pretty late to get to a certain point in my homework, planning my blocks of study time and how much should be completed after each session—and still not finishing everything. So I could feel better that I wasn’t slacking, but then I would wonder what was wrong with my approach that took so long. After every test and assignment, I reflect and tweak things. And I’m still turning in incomplete work.
But I’m learning so much. After pouring over chapter three of my Java book (which was after reading it once and flubbing the assignments), I had a grasp on some basic terms and methods. I could read a simple application and understand how the parts worked together. Last night I finally sat down and wrote one myself and it felt like writing a song, no joke. Loved it. I loved debugging the errors, and trying to condense things into variables. I loved answering the cheesy ASCII questions with my fake data. I love that the teacher has it set up so that you suffer if you turn in things last minute (every test has answers that you’ll want to dispute, for example). That’s just like the real workplace, in my experience.
After I turned in the application (I only finished one of the three assignments that were due on time), I indulged myself in some chat on the class discussion board, which we have to participate in for our grade. To hell with the fact that I’m probably not one of the best students. I still have something to contribute.