As you know by now, my first year at college was spent at a fabulous, (pun intended), regular campus school. My second year has been quite a bit different so far.
I transferred to SUNY Empire in the Fall 2015 semester in order to take online classes while I tagged along with my husband as he traveled for work.
At first, since we were between San Francisco and Northern New York quite often, it was worth it.
Since I vowed to take more creative classes, but I also have a passion for the conservation of wildlife, I took: Photographic Vision, Biology of Ecosystems, Intro to Studio Art, and Algebra.
The worst part about flying back and forth during the first two weeks of classes was that I didn’t have any of my books yet (they were all waiting at home for me). At regular, lecture, classes you aren’t usually given book-based assignments until the second week so that you have time to find the right book (sometimes at the college’s bookstore).
So the weekend I came home from San Francisco, after being there for three weeks, I had to work very hard to catch up on the reading and few assignments from the past week.
The application process and everything was very easy for Empire but they do have you take an orientation (even as a distance/ online student) which is actually great and helpful for registering for your classes, asking questions, and meeting your advisors (whom I e-mail often with questions).
Let’s break down the classes that I took.
- Intro to Studio Art – This class wasn’t actually too bad but it was extremely challenging as I was essentially teaching myself how to draw and paint in various mediums (we practiced drawing in pencil, charcoal, and colored pencil and then painted with watercolor and acrylics). I would show you some of my work but it’s embarrassingly bad. However, the professor did give excellent essay-long feedback at the end of each assignment.
- Photographic Vision – This class definitely helped me find more photographers to admire and such and helped me to learn more about my camera but when it came to creating content I wasn’t that motivated. I think most of this had to do with the fact that many other students were submitting horrible-quality smartphone photos.
- Algebra – This was definitely the easiest class to take online. This was because the Pearson book/account that we were required to purchase had online videos and online homework and quizzes with hints and step-by-step problems which made the learning process so much easier.
- Biology of Ecosystems – This class sort of caught me by surprise with its content but I enjoyed it nonetheless. We didn’t necessarily have textbooks, we had four small books that we read through the course of the semester. The first was a more technical book about the biology and evolution of plants. The next was about invasive plant/insect species, the third was about the importance of pollinators, and the fourth was the easiest read and is titled A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold.
The biggest issue that I had with online classes was the lack of socialization. I was really thankful for the discussion assignments that we had where we would comment and post on other student’s work for the chapter we were discussing at the moment but it’s not the same as being in a classroom.
This goes for teachers as well. At FIT I had an amazing relationship with most of my professors and I enjoyed going to their classes and wasn’t afraid to ask questions about my grades or for extra help. Not having this face to face interaction made it really difficult for me to warm up to my professors. Most of them were fairly easy to e-mail though and that helped a little but as I said before, its simply not the same.
Personally, I think that online classes are a great solution if you are traveling a lot or want to study while having a job, etc. However, I don’t think I’ll ever do full-time online classes again. For me, socializing with fellow students and professors is more important.
The best part is that you get to choose your own hours (since you’re basically teaching yourself) and hey: if you ever want to take a day off, you can!