The Globe staff’s first online student shares thoughts on online classes

Online learning can have its benefits, faults

Written By Alice Conyers-Jones, Staff Writer

This article is the first of what I hope will be a series of installments that highlight the perspectives of the online student experience here at Point Park. I recently learned that I am probably the first online student to be on The Globe staff. I never imagined myself to be the first at anything, and so I’m enjoying my moment in the limelight.

If it is later determined that this is not the case, then may the true forerunner please step forward. But not too soon, though. I’m a senior in the online program, and it’s been quite a ride so far. There’s so much to share. Before I begin to talk about my delight, and yes, my grief with the online program, I’d like to talk about how it came to be.

I reached out to PPU staffers Emily Hendrick and Danielle Brooks for a historical perspective.  As is the case with most successful endeavors, the development of the online format began at the top – namely, with the President and Provost offices. The program was created in response to the shifting preferences of the adult student population from evening and weekend classes to fully online learning.  Launched in April 2014, PPU’s online program enrolled its first 48 students in Fall 2014, and graduated its first class the following May.

From an initial offering of five degree programs five years ago, the program now offers more than 20 programs to nearly 800 students online. Participants can choose from 10 baccalaureate, three post-baccalaureate, nine master, two doctoral and two certificate programs, according to the university’s website.

My first reaction to the online program was something like “love at first sight.” I was attracted to the program for several reasons: no classrooms (love it!), high level of writing (I would rather scribe than talk), potential for shorter matriculation (it’s taking me four years, but I’ve taken several breaks between sessions) and shorter, accelerated sessions (this is okay sometimes, and I may address in another installment).

Then, after about two years, as various quirks emerged on both sides, the love affair became one of mutual respect. One such quirk, which continues to be a source of agitation for me, is the 24-48 hour response time for answers to questions directed at instructors. Simply stated, the time frame is too long. For those who may not know, undergraduate online study consists of eight weekly, specific and distinctive modules with tight deadlines for each week’s assignments.

With only seven days to fulfill the requirements for a given week, it doesn’t sit well with me that instructors can take up to two of those days to respond to an inquiry. It’s possible to miss a deadline waiting on a badly-needed response from an instructor. A more beneficial timeframe to respond, given our peculiar circumstances, is 12 hours or less.

That’s it for now, but I hope I’ve at least piqued your interest in the unique benefits and challenges of the online program. Of course, this is an opinion piece, and therefore these are my opinions, but I welcome yours, if you’re so inclined. Your feedback could inspire the content for future installments.