Living with chronic illness, it can be very difficult to get out of bed, let alone get to class. While I am able to push myself to get to a majority of my classes, sometimes I just want to be able to do school work without having to move too much. Because of this, I have chosen to incorporate virtual classes into my college schedule, and it has helped me a lot in managing my time and improving my grades. Here are some of the reasons I appreciate virtual classes, and my tips for success. As of spring 2017, I have taken 13 virtual classes in four semesters of college.
I’ve found that there were a few classes that either were held extremely early in the morning or late at night. Since my vision fluctuates throughout the day, these class times are not a good fit for me. With virtual classes, I can work on assignments while my vision is doing well.
Get ahead easily
Many of my professors post several weeks of class work in advance. If I am feeling well, I will complete the assignments early, in case I wind up feeling not-so-well later on. Professors also seem to be more flexible about students turning in late work if an emergency comes up- I was able to easily get extensions on assignments when needed.
Take classes from anywhere
The only reason I got credits my first semester was because of virtual classes. I had two separate medical emergencies happen in a month and spent over six weeks at home recovering. Basically, I disappeared right after midterms and only came back to school because I had to take a final exam. While I was recovering at home, I was able to continue with my virtual classes and stay on track, and I didn’t even tell my virtual teachers how sick I was until after the class had ended. With the flexibility to take classes anywhere, I was able to do very well that semester.
Use your own assistive technologies
With virtual classes, I can use all of my own technology which is fine-tuned to my preferences. I also can learn which devices, applications, and extensions work best for certain classes and how to create accessible documents. Bonus- I don’t have to balance five devices on a small desk.
Less “fluff” work
Here’s an entertaining story involving one of my friends and a general education history requirement. We were both taking the same class, and they told me about all of the assignments they had due:
- A group project
- An upcoming test
- Three essays for the month
- Eight questions from the textbook
- Outlining notes by hand
- Forty pages of reading
I was taking the same class virtually, and here was what my weekly workload looked like:
- Watch a video
- Answer three questions
- Two essays for the midterm and final
- That’s it!
Virtual classes have much less “fluff work” so students aren’t so overwhelmed.
Get used to working independently
One of the common complaints about virtual classes is that there is no one to reinforce deadlines and other materials. This is actually a good thing. No one is going to be around to remind you of every little thing in the real world. Learning to budget time and research topics online are important skills to have.
You won’t be seen as a disability
While it is important to share your disability services file with your professor, you don’t have to worry about sticking out in class because of your disability, if that’s a concern. In one of my classes (that I dropped immediately), lots of students and even the professor were staring at my blindness cane like it was some type of foreign object and asking a lot of strange questions. In virtual classes, no one can see you.
Take tests in your own environment
Many virtual classes in college allow students to take tests and quizzes in their own testing environment. I always appreciate being able to take a quiz from the comfort of my own desk, or to take a test in my pajamas. Almost all of these require Respondus LockDown.
- Respondus LockDown Browser Accessibility for Vision Impairment
- Why I Brought A Desktop Computer to College
Professors can teach from anywhere in the world. This is often beneficial as the student can learn information from someone in the field, or get a global perspective on a topic. For my global understanding requirement, I had a professor who had travelled to many different countries and was able to educate the class on many different topics related to global health and policy. Another one of my professors was popular at another university from halfway across the country, and we got to take a class with them. I’ve even had professors living in other countries.
Learn more about yourself
This may seem weird, but I have learned a lot about how I access materials and learn through taking virtual classes. With the ability to take a variety of different classes, I have been able to learn how I process information best, and which technologies are most helpful. I know that virtual classes in college will help me a lot in the future as well, especially since I want to work with accessibility.
Virtual classes in college have been an amazing resource for me. I am grateful that my college has really embraced virtual education and that I have been able to take almost any class that I want.