Monday, October 28, 2013

Why I hate online classes: 1010 retrospective

                My 1010 and 2010 experiences were a bit difficult, as I took them online. I had left the University of Wyoming about five years prior and wanted to get back to finish. At the time I was working full-time and saving money in hopes of returning to UW and wanted to get a head start. I knew that my grades were so-so from the first time around, so I decided to take some online classes to get myself back into the scholastic habit and get some good grades for reapplication. Although I got As in both classes, the online lessons did not really help me in any way.
                The usual format was doing some reading then writing a short response. The comments I got back were pedestrian at best and did not really help me develop as a writer. There were some larger assignments, which fell into the typical categories of “Personal Narrative”, “Argumentative”, and “Comparative.” I think the only paper I actually had to put effort into was the final for 2010, which was on Hamlet. I wrote about the motives for Hamlet’s inaction, which compared to the summaries that most of the class wrote (we did online peer editing) went above what was asked for in the assignment. I received generic praise from the teacher, so I felt I was doing pretty darn well.
                Cut to the next fall.
                I was writing my first big paper for an English class after becoming a full-time student again, thinking I had all this essay writing stuff figured out. It was a close reading on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 87, and I felt pretty pleased about it. I was aghast at the C- it earned, and all of the red marks crushed my spirits. The professor allowed rewrites so I took the notes and revised based on the thoughtful corrections that had broken my heart. Her biggest point was that I had only done half of the work and needed to ask “why is this important?” to have a good paper. That was the first time I’d had it phrased to me in that way. I pulled it up to a B+, and learned more about myself as a writer in those five pages than I had in the two semesters of 1010 and 2010.
                So do I think my 1010 and 2010 classes were a waste of time? Absolutely. Do I think that the classes in general are a waste of time? Not at all. I know that, when handled appropriately, the lower level English classes have value in training writers in how to engage in academic discourse. When the only criteria for an A are a functional grasp of grammar and an ability to fill the page requirement, the impact of the class is nearly zero.
 As to why the class was taught that way, I figure it had to do with the online format. Without meetings, it was hard to really discuss anything openly. We did online messaging sessions, which didn’t help my writing in the slightest. The grades I got helped me get back into school, but other than that had little impact on me as a student. As a teacher, however, I learned a lot about what not to do in a class. 

Gary Lindeburg


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