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My Mouse-On Education


June 16, 2011 http://www.southuniversity.edu/whoweare/newsroom/blog/my-mouse-on-education

By Guest Blogger
Isabelle Mitchell

Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

I can go to class in my favorite pajamas and my washed-out bathrobe. I can pick my nose all I want, right in front of my teacher and classmates. I can have my favorite music blasting in the background or cook a five-course meal while in class. The only time I have to fight for a seat is when my cats take a nap in my chair.

I am an online student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division and all I need for educational happiness is a laptop and an Internet connection. I can decide when I want to log in and do my homework or go over the lectures. For me, it is the perfect solution: I have a full-time job and my degree was not available at any college in the area. I also have enough willpower and determination to stick to my class schedule and have built a strong foundation of social skills, so sitting in front of a computer for a prolonged amount of time should not harm my sanity in any way (fingers crossed!). Not only do my classes come to me, but they also come in conveniently packaged portions of roughly six weeks. If I don’t like a class or a teacher, I will only interact with them for six weeks. It is a bit longer than it takes to get rid of a pimple or grow out a bad haircut, but it is much easier to stay focused and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Another advantage of online classes is the small class size and that I constantly get video critiques, comments and new ideas to improve and advance. I actually feel that the teacher knows who I am and cares that I do well – that attention definitely makes up for staring into the screen for hours.

But the best thing about online classes is that I never have any tests. Now, before you think that I am lazy and just get my degree while surfing the Internet, think again. Instead of taking tests, I actually write paper after paper, complete assignment after assignment, all while keeping track of as many deadlines as a teacher can squeeze into six weeks. Instead of a lot of talking, theory and taking notes, I actually have to put everything I learn to (hopefully) good use right away. Procrastinating until mid-terms or finals is impossible. Even though the concept of studying online seems very abstract, the actual program is more hands-on (or mouse-on, actually) than a traditional offline education.

It sounds a bit like the perfect way to get a degree, doesn’t it?

Well, almost. Of course there are a variety of temptations that test the above-mentioned willpower and determination. I do get my education online, but I also waste most of my time online outside of the online classroom. Evil has a name and every student knows the enemy: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any instant messaging program. The Internet offers an infinite number of possibilities to waste time.

I admit, sometimes it would be nice to have a teacher in front of me who sees when I am not paying attention. Of course I could still doodle on the edges of my book, draw mustaches on pictures or practice my origami skills with the pages of my textbook, but eventually I would (probably) take notes. Or at least highlight enough so it looks as if I actually paid attention and did my homework. I know that the time I spend online gets tracked but Big Art Institute Brother does not track if I am paying attention.

Most of my textbooks are online as well, so there is no need to purchase them. I am not ashamed to say, though, that I prefer spending the GNP of a small island on textbooks anyway. Reading a book online is so difficult for me. When I read something on a screen, I am used to scanning it, looking for headlines and pictures – the exact opposite of what you should you when you actually want to learn something. I admire people who can read a text on a screen as if it’s on a real page, and it would be much more convenient, cheaper and better for my back if I didn’t have to carry books. I suppose I could utilize the digital resources – we have the ability to print off any texts and take them with us - but, for now, at least, I prefer traditional textbooks.

Another big disadvantage of being an online student is that it is hard to gossip about classmates or complain about teachers. Let’s face it, it is a crucial part of everyone’s life: Sometimes you just need to let it out and get it off your chest. Screaming at your computer and at people who cannot hear you is only a short-term solution – and a very unsatisfying one as well. Ignoring someone is way more fun when they can see you not looking at them.

However, other than the yelling or the lack of “real” human contact, studying online is really not that different from studying offline. I have a pile of homework and papers waiting for me every evening and sometimes, neither blasting music nor sitting in a coffee shop makes any of it more fun; I often wish I could set my laptop, books and highlighters on fire.

But being a student is not like riding into the sunset on a rainbow colored unicorn. Being annoyed with homework, papers, teachers or students is part of the experience. And I always keep reminding myself that one day, I will have a real and offline graduation. I will walk on stage, get my diploma and wear one of these gowns – and my lucky bathrobe underneath.

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Tags: online learning student blogger

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