Throughout all my years as a student, participation has always been my strongest suit. I am constantly raising my hand in class, even when most of my answers prove to be wrong. It’s difficult for me to understand concepts and think of ideas without thinking out loud to someone else. For this reason, I’m better at class discussions than in-class essays, and teachers’ comments are rarely “speak up more”.
From the start, I knew an online class would be different. Without a traditional classroom setting in which students and teacher are in one space, I knew it would be much less often that I would see other people face to face. But it was hard to really understand the dynamics of an online class until I started it, and I soon found out that it was even more unfamiliar to my previous learning experiences than I had imagined.
The first class “discussion” was incredibly nerve-wracking. Even though my hand is often the first to be raised in my offline classes, I was reluctant to post anything to this discussion until I saw several others do so. I spent a long time reading and rereading my post to make sure it didn’t sound stupid, or crazy, or wrong. I delayed participating as long as I could, and when I finally submitted I felt more anxiety, instead of relief.
I think I enjoy in-person learning and discussions more because I am able to see others’ reactions. In an offline class, the conversation adapts to everyone’s ideas and flows naturally. I can respond to my classmates’ ideas and see how they react to mine. In an online setting, I felt isolated and cut off, unsure of myself. I was less of an active learner, and more of a passive watcher.
But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve learned the value of an online education. I’ve had to significantly step out of my comfort zone and embrace a new type of participation. My learning style has changed, and I think for the better. Online discussions force me to think before I “speak”, and my contributions are more valuable for it. The ability to only share once in our discussions makes me more thoughtful and more conscious of what I’m saying. My in-school learning has been impacted as well, as I’ve learned to say less but share more valuable insights in class discussions. I’ve also discovered that stepping back can be a blessing, as now I am more attentive to everyone else’s insights and ideas, which further enhances my learning.
Even in these few weeks I have been in an online class, I have grown as a student, and I have learned so much about how I can learn more effectively. Despite the initial discomfort and anxiety, stepping out of my comfort zone and into a new learning environment has helped me in a positive way. I can’t wait to see how much I’ve changed by the end of the year.