This summer I took my first ever online class at Johnson & Wales. I am currently a full-time student at the Johnson & Wales University Providence Campus but wanted to continue my education and earn some extra credits over the summer. I was accepted to an internship program based in Jerusalem and chose to take an additional class while I was away. While looking through the online options, I stumbled upon a free elective called “Culture and Food” and figured that there was no better class to take while I was exploring abroad. This course dove deep into the connection between food, culture, and sociology through many different readings and interesting TED Talks, as well as discussions with other students from different backgrounds.
This summer was truly a learning experience, in more ways than one. Here are four things I learned about online learning during my first online class:
1. Online offers a one-size-fits-all learning environment.
As a student who is used to physically going into a classroom to learn, the online aspect of this course was definitely the most difficult. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to recreate the learning environment I was used to before. Quickly, I realized that the true beauty of an online course is that each student has the ability to create a different learning environment that works for them. While in the classroom, it is almost impossible to create a learning environment that works successfully for each and every student. However, online learning allows each student to take their courses and tailor when they do homework and how they study specifically to their lifestyle. For me, I was able to explore Israel while taking courses, which was amazing!
2. You can connect your online courses to your surroundings.
During the beginning of my course, I found myself wanting to force a connection between my online coursework to my experiences while abroad. Really, making this happen turned out to be pretty easy. While I was learning about different cultures and food and how sociology bridges them together, I was living it, seeing it on my bus ride to work, and tasting it at each falafel stand around my hotel. The course I chose to take was extremely interesting and fit so well into my summer adventure that it actually enhanced my experience as a whole.
3. You need to learn how to manage your time and your fun.
I typically have great time management skills! I am very organized, have color-coded calendars, and don’t commit to anything unless I am 110 percent in, but I found that managing time for my first online class was definitely more challenging than I expected. I was trying to balance Israel and everything it had to offer with meeting new people with my academics, and it was difficult at first. Time management for an online class takes a different type of organization. It requires self-discipline and determination to be able to fully commit, learn, and be successful. Whether you are combining online classes with study abroad, a family, or a full time job, the give-and-take between everything on your plate is important. To succeed in an online class, I’ve learned that I need to balance my courses with all of the aspects of my life that are important to me.
4. It helps to focus on why you started.
This is definitely the most important thing I learned! If you take anything away from this blog it should be this: Education is crucial. It is by no means easy, but that’s not why we do it. People attend college on campus or online, for two years, four years, or even more, and each path is right and exists for specific people and for specific reasons. If you get stressed or begin contemplating quitting, remember why you started this journey in the first place. Maybe it was to give your children a better life, maybe you made a promise to a loved one, or maybe you are doing it completely for yourself to grow and learn. Whatever the reason is, you started this journey for it...so push through! Because the smile of the person you did it for—or how you feel when you finish—will be worth it.
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