How I Used Online Classes as an Alternative Learning Opportunity


Online classes allowed me to reach my educational goals and improve my life on my own time without sacrificing the things that mattered most to me in the process

Online Courses Are More than an Alternative Learning Opportunity, They've Become a Way of Life

When I began my college career, I was a young, unmarried woman with no children, no job, and no money. I knew that completing my degree was going to be a long-term project, but I was prepared to stick it out for as long as it took, no matter what the cost. I had no idea it would take the better part of a decade and a half, require me to use technology I hadn't dreamed of, or that I would gain so much freedom in the process.

Ten years after I began, I was a busy educator, mother, wife, and business owner, still working on that degree. It was starting to look like I always would be.

Not Enough Courses

Getting my degree was proving to be an even greater challenge than I had expected because so many classes were unavailable. If the class was open, I was unavailable. If I was open, the class was full. My list of required classes was incomplete, and I couldn't do anything about it.

This was not only frustrating because I was spending more time and money than I could afford, but I was missing out on valuable information that would make me a better teacher, mentor, and director as well.

Enter the Internet


Fortunately for me, my local college began offering some of the courses I needed online. This offering suited non-traditional students like myself who had day jobs and families. I was skeptical that I would get the same quality of learning from these classes, but I was desperate, so I signed up.

The work was hard, and I still had to take significant time out of my schedule to complete the lessons, but I had the opportunity to do it when it made the most sense to me. That meant that, rather than leaving my job in the middle of the day or rescheduling important meetings, I could set aside a few hours a week in the evening when it was more or less convenient.

It was a godsend.

Finally Complete

Because of the college's online program, I completed my prerequisites and transferred to a local university. While there I was able to use other non-traditional programs to complete my degree. It wasn't ideal and took me longer than I would have ever believed it could, but I finally finished.

Without my online classes, I doubt I ever could have. I even found a few through EDX to take just for fun.

Life and Death Learning


The benefit of online courses has gone well beyond my degree program, however. When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few years ago, our whole world was shaken to its foundation. With no family history of the disease and little medical knowledge, we had zero understanding of how the condition would affect him. We didn't even know how to keep him alive.

While my son was recovering from his first diabetic episode, our doctors were providing us with piles of books, pamphlets, and documentation to help us understand his condition. They spent as much time with us as they could, but since they had other patients to attend, we were largely left to our own devices.

To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. We were drowning.

On the second day, as I sat crying in the hallway, our Diabetes Educator sat down beside me. She put her arms around me and assured me that we would be fine. He would be fine. Then, she directed me to a series of online modules that would help us to not only understand our son's condition; they would help us teach him to manage it on his own as well.

These lessons were a tiny electronic miracle. They distilled the information into manageable pieces and presented it in a clear, graphical way that made sense. Even our sleep deprived brains could understand. And, since we could access them at any time, from any device, we were able to educate ourselves without leaving our son's side. Another godsend.

These classes were, in every sense of the word, life-saving for us and our son. I couldn't have been more grateful. I've even used the information in them to develop educational materials for the classes I teach. Thanks to these online modules my son's classmates and other young students understand the warning signs and when to get help. I like to think we've made the schoolyard a safer place as a result.

Student for Life

The idea of online courses as an alternative learning opportunity is a bit of a misnomer to me. By now, after so many years of seeking information and learning opportunities online, it has become a way of life. I cannot imagine how I would have reached my goals, learned to care for my son, and provided such a wide range of opportunities to my students without them. I continue to use online classes even now, finding an endless variety of opportunities to satisfy my curiosity and keep my mind engaged. I couldn't be more grateful that they exist and cannot wait to see what new developments may come in the future.

By Patricia Willis
December 2016
opinion online classes

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