Friday, July 10, 2015

Testing My Time Management Skills With Online Classes

I have now completed year two of university. This year I pushed harder and took four classes per semester, as well as two additional 6 week long online classes in the spring semester. I discovered that I do not want to ever take online classes again, if I can avoid it at all. They were quite difficult in ways I didn't expect. I hadn't realized how much influence the physical presence of a professor can have. It is also more difficult to gauge their marking style or understand what exactly they are looking for in an assignment. As much as I may be introverted, I need people too. I learn best on my own sometimes, but there is so much that a professor brings to a class that you just can't get online.
The pace of the online classes was intense. I had deadlines every 3 or 4 days, even on weekends. Doing a single class might have been a lot more manageable, but I'm not that smart and I dive in head first. In order to balance the deadlines for two separate classes, I needed a good system. First I printed a blank calendar and wrote out due dates. Then I added family commitments or school functions. I didn't have a lot in May, June was crazy though. I looked at this calendar every single day.

Now, seeing when the Module items are due is only helpful if I have a way to keep track of what each module is. For instance, Module 1 did not have a chapter to read. Fortunately, none of the modules required more than one chapter. But keeping track of what has to be done for module 4, which might have been about chapter 7 doesn't help a lot. And you need to know the module numbers, because the assignment upload links or online quizzes are noted as the module number, not chapters or names. So, I made myself a chart for each class like this.
Angel always offers encouragement. 
I used this, as you can see, as a quick glance place to track marks. Especially helpful when I was trying to calculate my grades before the final. I did have to add the due dates to this form later in the term, because it was getting confusing.
Additionally confusing, and further testing my organizational skills, was the naming structure for assignments. All documents that we submit were in this format MyName_M##. For both classes. So I had a Wendy_M04 for both classes. And yes, I did accidentally submit a Psyc assignment to my Soci prof. What a nightmare! I believe that was the point where my professor decided I was an idiot and marked my work much more critically after that. Even when I had a better mark, his comments were quite condescending after that point. To prevent a repeat of that horrible mistake, I made a habit of changing the file name as soon as I had finished submitting it. I had separate folders for each class, and just happened to click the wrong folder. When you only get one chance to submit, this is not a good thing. So, each time I finished an assignment and uploaded it, I went into the folder and changed it from Wendy_M04 to Wendy_psyc_M04. No more mistakes.
Online quizzes are quite a bit easier, and they are open book also. But you do have a time limit and some test bank questions can relate to really small details, so you really do have to do the reading if you want to do well. It is a much better plan to flip back through the book to double check something, than it is to try to find the answers for each question. I like online tests because feedback is instant, but the questions can be a lot more difficult than if the professor wrote them, or chose them.
My psyc final was written online at the exam facility. It was great to know my mark before I left, but I didn't do as well as I hoped and I definitely felt instantly defeated. Conversely, my soci exam was on paper and he was 5 days past the cutoff for grades when he finally posted them. And I also don't know what my mark on the exam was, just the final class grade. You win some, you lose some. Right?
The most important thing that got me through all of this for the last two months, without losing my mind, was continuous work. I didn't have any chances to hand things in early, but I only had one quiz that I had to scramble to complete on time through the whole semester. Every day, I checked my calendars, did a little work every chance I could.
I read text books while sitting and waiting at kids schools. I did assignments while everyone was out during the day, or after everyone went to bed. I made sure I told the family when I had something big coming up or if I was falling behind. Having my mother here was a great help, because she could do up dishes if I didn't get to them or, most often, switch my laundry for me because I was notorious for leaving things in the washer during these classes. I'm not sure why.
For cleaning and school work, consistently doing at least a little bit, every single day, was key to completing these courses. I finished with an A- and a B+. Still attending field trips and volunteered every morning for half an hour to switch the home reading books in Angel's class. I cooked dinner almost every night and we still ate at the table, all together, almost every single night. I did my best to protect my weekends. Sometimes it meant staying up late Friday to finish enough that I would be on track for Monday, just so that I had Saturday and Sunday open. But most often, Sunday ends up being a day for laundry and homework. It has been that way since I started university.
I would have to say that I think taking two short semester online classes was much more difficult than taking four regular semester classes.  These were regular classes, crammed into only 6 weeks of classtime. Very intense and highly stressful.
Yes, it is hard. This adventure may very well be the hardest thing I have ever done, in so many ways. But really, it's not so hard that I would ever quit. I make smaller goals. Make the most of my time off. And I just DO what I have to DO. I'm not superwoman, I am just me. I am meeting the expectations I have placed upon myself. Isn't that what everyone does?