Raising My Hand Online

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.



  1. Sarah,
    Greetings from Madrid! I enjoyed reading your post, and I am very impressed at how well you write. Congratulations!

    I think there are a lot of people who are going through the same transition you are as they move away from classroom learning and toward online education. I am currently teaching English for Nursing at a university here in Madrid, and my institution recently invested a great deal of money in an e-learning platform. The administration is urging us to engage our students online, but it has been very difficult to get my students to participate both in the classroom and out of it. However, I believe that they will eventually come around if I keep thinking of ways in which I can make them feel comfortable and challenged in online interaction.

    As for the anxiety you felt before writing your first contribution to class discussion, I experience the same uneasiness when I post to Twitter and Facebook, especially because many of the people I follow and who follow me are language professionals like myself. I want my tweets and posts to be a good representation of myself, so I can’t afford to just punch out whatever comes to mind. I think there is a lot to be said for knowing who our audience is before we write, because this awareness helps us to hone our message.

    Here’s a question for you: Do you think the language we use when we write is more difficult to produce or requires more effort from us than when we communicate verbally? If so, what makes us more likely to have writer’s block than to be tongue-tied?

    Good luck with your class!



    • Hi Oliver,

      I really appreciate your thoughts. I think your question is very interesting, because I find that it’s much easier to share my opinions orally than written down. But I do think that isn’t the case for everyone. Personally, my learning style lends itself more to auditory and verbal learning. But I know a lot of people for whom it’s much easier to write things down or read them, and they thrive in environments like an online class. So I think that while writers’ block may be more common for some people, others get tongue-tied just as often.


  2. Sarah, I found your post very interesting. I would never have thought that someone who is such an active participant in a face-to-face class would feel so hesitant in an online class. Thanks for your honesty about how putting your thoughts out there in this type of format can be scary. I am a supporter of student blogging and online discussions in my school. I often am stating the case to teachers that an online discussion is so beneficial to students who may be afraid to speak up in class or may need more time to formulate a thought. Such online discussions gives everyone the time and space that may be needed for thoughtful reflections and comments. Your post made me aware that anxiety can exist for those face-to-face active participants as well. Writing something down for everyone to see is so permanent and can be quite a risk. It sounds like you have had a supportive environment to challenge yourself and have learned some valuable lessons.


    • Thank you for your response! I’m glad that I could help provide a new perspective on this type of learning experience. I agree that online learning will give me valuable skills, especially, as you pointed out, taking more time to formulate thoughtful contributions.


  3. Hi Sarah,
    Great post! I definitely felt this way too, but in a way I actually felt better about the discussions online because I feel I have a tendency to ramble in person and with online discussions, everyone gets a chance to speak and I don’t feel as if I’m annoying anyone as much. Anxiety is totally something I get, though… I also reread all of my posts dozens of times before publishing them! I do agree that being able to think about what you are going to say beforehand makes contributions more valuable in the long run, but I don’t like how, while it is a “discussion”, very little discussion aside from the mandatory goes on, which is different from a real classroom.
    Every setting has its upsides and downsides, I guess. I hope you continue enjoying the class!
    Sincerely, Jane


    • Hi Jane! Thanks for your comment! I definitely identify with you about rambling, and I’m thankful that online discussions prevent that. You’re right that both settings have positives and negatives, and in a way, I guess I’m glad we get to experience both!


  4. Hello Sarah,

    The title of your post caught my attention. It reminded me of years spent working with young children. Raising their hand was a way of drawing attention to themselves when they had something to say or ask. Within classes there were always some willing to raise their hand whenever the opportunity offered. There were also those at the other end of the scale who dared not perhaps from fear of rejection or ridicule.

    Raising your hand is significant whether metaphorical or actual. We have to be willing to have our say and listen to positive and negative feedback. It’s only by putting ideas out there we can continue to grow. The advantage of living in a democracy is the ability to speak out without fear of persecution. If we aren’t willing to speak out, we waste an opportunity not afforded to all people.

    To make change for the better, we must be willing to be open with our thoughts and feelings. Imagine a world where Martin Luther King Jr didn’t “raise his hand” and say…

    “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood . . .”

    On drawing your post to a conclusion, you explained, “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.”

    This clearly demonstrates how much you have progressed. Too many times I have heard opinions expressed by people who claim they are straight forward and say what they think. When I listen to their words, I have often wondered whether their opinion is more a case of not thinking what they say.

    Thank you for sharing your insightful opinion on raising your hand.

    Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

    P.S. The learning never stops for an active mind. My experiences with posts from students involved in the OSG’s AP Government & Politics course has always impressed me with the quality of their thought and the need for me to think hard before commenting, a role much more difficult than my normal comments directed at elementary students. We all learn from our interactions with others.


    • Thank you so much for your insights. I know how important it is to push myself to keep participating, even when it’s more difficult, and I will keep working on that. I really appreciate you noticing my progression and encouraging me. Thank you!


  5. Sarah–

    Great to hear how you are growing as a learner in your OSG course… it does take some time to get used to (more or less for everyone!), but if you are feeling more comfortable after only a few weeks, you’ll feel great by the end of the semester.

    – Brad Rathgeber
    OSG Director


    • Thanks for your support! I’m really enjoying the class so far and I think it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to take a class in this format.


  6. I was intrigued by the title of your post – a great one to catch the reader’s interest!

    I had to laugh reading it, as I was just the opposite in school. I’d shrink in my chair, hoping not to be noticed and not to be called on! Usually by the time I got the nerve to raise my hand, someone had already given my answer, so I’d sink back down into my chair once again. How I wish there had been online opportunities back then (in the olden days!). Of course I have learned better how to speak up now, but the idea of being able to think through a discussion post, write my piece, and then post it would have helped me to develop these skills earlier, I think.

    I’m so glad that you are feeling encouraged to step out of your comfort zone, that you are learning more about how to find confidence in your written discussions, and that you can see benefits in your regular school courses.

    Karen Douse
    OSG Academic Dean


    • Hi, Ms. Douse! It was really interesting to read your response. I think it’s great that different classes offer people opportunities to experience different learning styles, and to grow as students. I’m grateful I’m able to feel comfortable in the traditional classroom environment, but also glad I get to explore something new.


  7. Sarah,
    I loved your thoughts on the new changes with technology. I too really enjoy in class participation and discussions. And doing the majority of a class based online (blog or research) was a huge change in environment. I too am slowly adapting and starting to enjoy it more, but I still do like taking back steps and do like discussing with people, to see others view and reactions. Do you think there are some areas of learning/subjects that should not be online because of the style or information? How do you think this course will help you in the future?


    • Sarayu –

      Thanks for your response. I think it’s really important to, as you said, step back every once in a while and talk about online learning. It’s so different from anything I’ve experienced, and I find it really helps to discuss that with people, especially because discussion is in some ways lacking in an online class. In answer to your questions, I think that everything has the potential to be presented in an online format. In some cases (like discussions), the experience is different and, for me at least, less enjoyable. But they still offer valuable lessons and experiences, so I appreciate that everything is online, even when it’s more difficult. I hope that this course will open my mind and help me become more adaptable, and that the course material will help me become a more informed and responsible citizen.


  8. Hi Sarah,

    I thought that your post was an interesting contrast to how I myself learn. I do not always raise my hand (even if I know the right answer) in class but I find myself much more engaged online. Perhaps it is because I grew up around technology when I was young (my dad was a server administrator when I was 2-3 years old). I also think that I am slowly being changed for the better as more and more of my classes are online – I am growing some confidence in my classes in real life; rarely do I get a comment saying that I should speak up in group discussions more often.

    P.S. Shout out to Sarayu who I don’t think realizes how loud she can be in class discussions.


    • David –

      I think you bring up a really interesting point. As a child, I wasn’t exposed to very much technology, and while I don’t consider myself a technophobe, before this class I had never used twitter, Vimeo, etc., so I’m definitely expanding my horizons. I’m so glad to hear that online classes are helping your participation, as they’re helping mine (in a different way).


  9. Sarah,

    I was interested by your opinions earlier on in the post about gauging other people’s reactions being crucial to your learning process.
    For me, the fact that what I post is there forever, for everyone to see, is what makes me nervous about posting on blogs and the like. Messing up in class isn’t so bad, because our classmates quickly forget about it, but the permanence of blog posts makes me hesitant, even though my peers’ reactions are conveyed to me via comments.

    Would bringing the face-to-face element back with a program like Skype be beneficial to the online learning style or detrimental? I noticed that you said you valued the interaction between students when discussing topics; after taking an online class, would you still opt for the face-to-face or stick with online education?


    • Hello and thank you for your comment! I agree that in-person discussions are less stressful because what you say is less permanent. You bring up a really interesting point about Skype that I hadn’t considered. I haven’t participated in a face-to-face video discussion with my online classmates yet, but when I do I will be sure to take note of the differences.


  10. Sarah,

    Greetings from Portland, USA. I understand how you are feeling currently since I have also experienced the transition from classroom based learning to internet based learning few years ago. Personally, I have directly opposite personality than you since I am the super quite person in class. I’m acting as a observer every time in class but on the online learning center, I become more active commenting the way to speak up online. I love the idea how everything is becoming electronic in the 21st century since it helps our planet but do you think that the new generation might lose the ability to write in the future? Or the future generation might lose some abilities that previous generations own?

    Keep up the work 🙂



    • Hi Marcus! A few other people have also said that they had the opposite reaction as me to online learning, which I think is interesting and just goes to show that everyone has unique learning styles. In answer to your questions, I do think that the move to electronic-based learning will emphasize some skills and make others obsolete, but I think that online learning will place a greater importance on writing, if anything. Online classes require a lot more writing than verbalization, and the ability to speak in public or to have a discussion may become more of a lost skill than writing.


  11. Hey Sarah!

    I’m glad you’re adjusting well to life in an online classroom! I’m such a verbal learner that I truly understand what you mean because even having part of a class online can prove to be very difficult. I really doubt myself a lot more than in public where I can see peoples facial expressions and reactions to what I’m saying. I find it a lot harder to talk online because I feel like I’m going out on a limb. What’s your opinion on the best way to get better at discussions online, and be more comfortable?

    Keep it Real,


    • Hi Bo! I’m still figuring the online dynamic out, but I’ve found it helps to talk about what I’m going to say in my post to a friend (even if they’re not in the class) or my parents, because it helps me gauge whether or not my ideas make sense aloud.


  12. Hi Sarah!

    My name is also Sara, and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in the United States. I’m commenting on your blog as part of a requirement for a class I’m in called EDM310.

    I just wanted to start off by telling you that you’re a very talented writer. I can completely relate to your post. When I first took an online class I was extremely nervous. The amount of anxiety I had before class discussions were due was almost unbearable. Like online classes, the class I’m in now, also makes us step outside of the box! At first, it is quite scary thinking that you’re on your own, but in the long run it is very rewarding. It makes you not rely on your classmates opinion as much, and just value your own more. I’m so glad you’re adjusting to it now, and I wish you all of the success in the world!


    • Thank you, Sara! I’m glad to hear that online classes become easier with experience. I really agree that online discussions make me contribute more original and thoughtful opinions, and I hope that trend continues!


  13. Sarah,
    Hello! My name is Jenna Barnes. I attend the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post. I wanted to say I admire the fact that you usually raise your hand first in class. I am complete opposite. I get really nervous and shy in class. But, my first year in college I also had an online class. Unlike you, I enjoyed it because of the fact that I wasn’t in a crowd of people. This makes it so interesting for me to now understand why some people who are more outgoing than I am dislike online classes. I just wanted to tell you that with time, they do get easier. I enjoy them. I hope that one day they get easier for you too. Keep up the hard work! You sound like an amazing student. I’m glad that you have grown as a student through this type of work. I look forward to reading more posts. Have a great day.


  14. Hey Sarah, My name is Corey Waldon. I am an education major at the University of South Alabama. First i would like to start off by saying I really enjoyed your post. I think the issue you brought up about online and offline learning is very important. This semester I am taking my first ever online class and i could relate to some of the problems you were having. I think the tool of online learning is great and I also think that it’s cool how much you can learn from other students. Yes, online classes do take away the face to face time between a teacher and students. But it also gives so much to the students who likes to work more independently. Through class discussions each student is able to express his or her own feelings in their own words. Sarah great job and keep up the good work.


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