I'm off in a few hours for three weeks on-campus at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC for the Master's of Communication program.
The last few weeks have been the pre-residency phase, which was a period of reading and some online learning to prepare us for the intensive in-class work during the residency period.
So far, my experience with working fulltime and studying fulltime has been dreadful!
During the day, I've been working my ass off to prepare for my three weeks away. At night and weekends, I've juggled spending time with my family with keeping up with my studies. It probably would have went fairly well - had I not got sick about a month ago. I never got better.
Finally, I went to a doctor and found out that I have an ear & sinus infection. The doctor told me it probably started with a cold and as I didn't rest enough (one sick day and one weekend day was all I "rested")that caused the infection. Should've went to the doctor sooner as the last few weeks of being sick and juggling work and study have been hell.
Early critique of e-Learning
Despite it all, I have managed to learn quite a bit from my Communication Theory class. I'm taking two others classes at the same time, but I'm not sure if these professors were charged with doing any e-Learning.
My Communication Theory professor did a few things to really make the most of e-Learning.
Podcasts worked great
First the professor had the standard readings, but these were supplemented by podcasts with PowerPoint presentations. I found the readings combined with podcasts really helped me get the key concepts. The podcasts were also fun and much better than just reading a transcribed lecture, as was the format of my distance ed. courses at University of Guelph years ago.
Mixed experience with forums
All the classes have forums for students and faculty to discuss lessons and other topics. (There's also a chat feature that I think is never used.)
Another professor made posting one intelligent comment a week a requirement and weekly seeded topics. Discussions flourished. I shouldn't really say discussions though. Due to the requirement of an insightful posting everyone, myself included, worked to achieve this. I've never seen a forum with so little genuine back-and-forth discussion or where each post is an epistle. This was a shame, not to mention sometimes a chore to read, as in trying to meet the requirements some posts went to 400-500+ words.
However, overall this class has had the best discussion of any class I have ever taken. In all my university and job training courses, I have never seen such generally insightful commentary. And even more rare, every student participated. Maybe my class doesn't have the standard shy and unmotivated students (dullards) but every class I have taken generally gets less than a quarter of the students participating, no matter how hard the instructor tries to get all to chime in. It really was great to hear from every classmate!
This professor also started an informal discussion area which has helped connecting online to fellow students a real success so far. Much gratitude for that! I posted a request for classmates to join a class group that I started on Facebook and to "friend" one another and this has further helped me get to know my classmates.
So between the podcasts and the forums, and despite my sickness, my e-Learning experience has started off really well.