Since I used to be a full-time student at West Valley College and I took a couple of online classes there in the last few years, I decided to contribute to the WVC eLearning blog. The classes that I am talking about were – in order that I took them – Creative Writing and the first semester of Web Design. Since the two courses were very different, and so were my feelings about them, I shall discuss them separately.
I took Creative Writing as a summer online class. I was transferring to SJSU to get my BA in English, and at the last minute it turned out that the Shakespeare class that I had taken a few semesters before was not transferable; I needed one more class, and the Creative Writing online class was my last resort. I remember feeling some resentment about taking a class ONLINE: I had heard that internet-based courses were easier than in-person ones. Nevertheless, I signed up, and I quickly found out that taking an online creative writing class was not a bad idea. The class was run as a forum where students posted their work and commented on one another’s posts. I don’t know what an in-person creative writing class looks like, but to me as a student it was helpful that I did not have face-to-face contact with the instructor or other students, because this way I was more comfortable sharing my work. For most people, creative writing involves sharing intimate ideas, so the format of the class allowed us, students, to remain sort of anonymous. I believe that this was one big advantage.
The Web Design class that I took during a regular semester when I was a graduate student was very different from the previous class I just described. Also, I took it in a different context: I was simply curious about web design and I wanted to make the most of the class. The first week of the class was disappointing: I finished the week’s assignment in 50 minutes! I e-mailed the instructor to get an extra assignment and to encourage her to post further assignments, but she asked me to wait until week 2. I did like that overall the class was extremely well prepared: the instructor recorded and uploaded video tutorials and she gave a lot of personal feedback. In addition to that, I also enjoyed the class because it made sense to take a web design class online, because it was easy to paste the code on the forum and to share our projects on the WVC server.
To sum up, I believe that inadvertently I made a good choice taking these specific classes online. In addition to what I said above, the online format made the classes reconcilable with my work schedule and saved me the commute. I will certainly continue taking web-based courses. In fact, I already have a few in mind: Coursera (www.coursera.org), edX (www.edx.org), and Udacity (www.udacity.com) offer some free opportunities for students like me who, after obtaining a college degree, are interested in improving their qualifications and broadening their skills.
Dominika Bialek started taking courses at WVC as an international student from Poland. After completing an AA degree in Liberal Arts, she transferred to San Jose State University where she completed a BA in English and an MA in TESOL. Currently she works as a technical writer and translator.