Distance Learning. This term has come to mean a lot of different things, but to me it means learning from an institution or teacher from a distance – one that is not local to where you are but someplace, some distance away. I have experience with distance learning, both personally and with two of my boys, during their high school experiences.
Much of our experience, in fact almost all of it, has been positive. But, there are a few downsides, one of which has been occurring with me since last weekend. I am having computer issues! Currently, I am enrolled in a graduate program about two and a half hours away from where I live. The entire degree, a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education and Interpretation, is online. I am just over half way finished. As you can imagine, there is a lot of self-directedness involved in taking an online course. The communication patterns are different that being in a physical classroom. I know this is a stumbling block for some considering virtual education, but for me, it has worked out fine. I tend to be a very organized person, keeping track of when discussion posts are due (which replace classroom discussions), on top of all assignments, papers, and tests.
Yet, this past Saturday, I was thrown off track. I could not connect to my course pages! After several hours of trying, I contacted the help desk at the university. In the past, on the rare occasion that I have had to call them, they have been very helpful. Apparently, there was some WiFi problem going on effecting conductivity on campus. My weekly paper was not due until Sunday afternoon. Knowing I could work on this offline, it did not concern me. But, Sunday came, I finished my paper and found that I still could not connect!
What to do?
Well, about an hour before the paper’s final deadline, I emailed the professor and explained I was having computer connection issues. Proactively, I told her I would attach my paper to the email, so as to prove I had finished it in the required timeframe. She emailed back, stating that it was not a big deal, and I could post to the second discussion forum (which was also due) as soon as I had a connection, even if I missed the deadline. I appreciated her flexibility.
Yet, here it is Thursday. Two more discussion posts were due by 10pm last evening. I still had no computer connection to school. Now, all during this week, I had kept trying various ways to connect. Nothing from home worked, even after I involved my very tech savvy senior high school student. Calls to the help desk were made each day from Saturday through Tuesday. Tuesday, since I had online readings to do for this coming week of class, I went to a local restaurant/coffee shop with free wi-fi and was able to connect to the university with out a problem. Two afternoons were spent in our public library, using their computer to access my course pages. Our library is brand new, so my problem served a purpose in getting me there. It is beautiful and I enjoyed my time, so it might become a new place of study for me when I need to get out of the house during the dreary winter days to come. Finally, yesterday, from home I emailed the help desk at the university, with a detailed list of what I have tried, and the difficulties I continue to experience.
Hopefully, today, something will happen to resolve this issue with getting on my university course pages. It is taking extra time to run around to get a connection, download materials and/or discussion questions, and upload my answers. Luckily, we do not have a paper due for ten days. During this time we are supposed to be working on a project, instead. That I can do. But, I am getting frustrated with the situation. Can you tell?
Maybe, today will be the day it gets resolved! If not, I will be contacting tech support again. Not having adequate computer connections to complete distance learning, definitely presents a downside to learning this way.