When I went into Hagerty Library last week, I had to stop at the security desk and tell the security guard that I was an online student, who didn't have an ID to swipe in to the library. Her response was "So then why are you here?". It's a fair question- if I live close enough to Drexel to go into their library on a weekday, why am I only taking online classes? While taking online classes still seems "untraditional" to many people, here are some of the reasons I decided to be an online student:
1. Convenience. I can study when I want to study. During the course of the last ten months since I started at the iSchool, I have worked 4 different jobs, and am currently applying to new ones. My schedule has changed several times, and online classes easily accommodate those scheduling shifts. I'm a morning person naturally, and so if I decide to read a lecture at 7:00 am, I can do it. The internet is on 24/7, and online classes allow me to take advantage of that.
2. Expenses. This also goes along with convenience: to take online classes, I don't have to travel anywhere for class. I don't drive, and the train in and out of the city gets expensive! If I did drive, money for gas and parking several times a week really adds up. By taking online classes, I can stay home or walk to a nearby library or coffee shop without spending any money.
3. Technology. Using a computer for classwork means that I need to be up on my technology skills. In the LIS field, comfort with technology is something that we are supposed to have when we come out of library school. Taking online classes forces me to hone my technology skills and explore new things that I might have avoided otherwise (Dropbox, Adobe Connect, RSS feeds...). In order to get the most out of my classes, it's important that I use and understand technology.
4. Time and project management. I've been on a weird schedule lately; when my job in education ended in June, I found that I was working mostly nights instead of days (thank you, retail). With my days often free now, I naturally assume that means that I have nothing to do, when in fact I have homework and projects to do. The flip side of convenience is that no one is forcing me to do classwork at a particular time, and so it's easy to put off. Being an online student has helped me manage my time better. This is certainly something that on-campus students get as well, but I have found that it's even more important to me now as an online student than it was when I did my undergrad on campus. There's less accountability in online classes (you don't see your professors' and classmates' faces when you fail to turn something in, so it's not as big a deal, right?) and so it's more important to have time management skills down, or at least be willing to work on them.
While I certainly miss not seeing classmates and professors, the pros of being an online student (for me) outweigh the cons. Missing that personal connection was the main reason that I joined SCALA, and I have really enjoyed getting to know classmates who are going through the same things that I am. Student associations and local chapter associations are great ways to meet people in the field while taking classes online, and I highly recommend reaching out to people. Because while doing homework at home in my pajamas can be wonderful, every now and then it gets a little bit lonely.