When students broke for the summer, some took on internships and jobs accompanied by online classes. They are an easy way to stay ahead on credits away from campus, but in my experience, the online courses wound up being inconvenient and unaccommodating for working students.
Each year, thousands of students enroll in online classes hoping to continue their studies into the summer without spending money to stay in D.C. Although the classes did not require me to be at GW, deadlines were often scheduled during business hours and conflicted with my summer work schedules. Professors also swapped out in-person lectures with daily assignments, making the course difficult to keep up with on a daily basis. Professors should tailor their online courses to the schedules of working students who often cannot meet business hour deadlines.
I took two online summer courses while working full-time in Maryland. Many of my online classmates lived abroad or worked full-time like me. But in my first course, many due dates were scheduled in the middle of the work day, and I struggled to turn in assignments every day. In my other class, my professor compensated for a lack of in-person class time with daily reading assignments that made my work-life balance nearly unmanageable.
For students like me who moved out of D.C. for the summer to work full-time jobs, deadlines during work hours are tough to meet. Courses held on campus do not have the same problem because schedules are set well before the course begins, and deadlines correspond to class times that are typically not every day. Daily deadlines also force students to constantly be academically “on” – always concerned about the next assignment or due date – which can contribute to burnout with a demanding work schedule. Professors need to be conscious of students’ other obligations during the summer and allow students more flexibility in their class deadlines.
Daily deadlines can also pose a larger burden on international students who work under a different time zone. For example, an 11 a.m. deadline in D.C. may translate to a 5 p.m. deadline in parts of Europe or an 11 p.m. deadline in China. Students taking these courses have to rework their entire daily schedule just to meet hard deadlines set in other time zones. The University cannot treat all courses as if they were taught in the District. Deadlines should reflect the actual working hours of those who study in foreign countries, not those who live in D.C.
Tough-to-meet deadlines should not make academic success for an online class difficult. Assignments should be due at the end of each week rather than every day. I would prefer to focus on coursework on my days off rather than try to fit in studying on busy work days.
My online classes were less convenient than in-person courses. But professors who teach online classes can help students in different time zones or those with work schedules by setting end-of-week deadlines and offering more flexibility to international students or students across the country.
I took online classes for the flexibility to take courses on my time. I soon found that these classes made up for the lack of in-class time by requiring daily assignments, often due in the middle of my work day. By reducing and rescheduling online class deadlines, online classes can be more accessible for the thousands of students who take them.
Jack Murphy, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, is a columnist.
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