In this last post I am glad to reflect on my learning and share about challenges I have had in the course this semester. Here are my personal perspective on online education in the context of online English learning and small-scale research writing, and recommendation for online students and course improvement.
Perhaps the greatest struggle for me was lack of time, and I guess most of my group mates will agree with this. I was writing blog posts, small-scale research project assignments, final papers for the courses I had in summer session, and working on my Master’s thesis at the same time. Even with perfect time-management evenings and weekends were not enough to cope with the amount of work I had. Writing mini thesis turned out very time-consuming and distractive; therefore I got an opportunity to work on my actual thesis only when being on campus. Despite the above-mentioned difficulties, my overall experience in mini-thesis writing was valuable. The highlight was interviewing people for my project, as it gave a great opportunity to practice before conducting interviews for my big research and drew my attention to areas I need to focus on. Reflecting on the online English course in general, I need to confess that I did not believe in effectiveness of blog writing at first. The fact that we were supposed to comment on posts of two group mates seemed imposed. However, as time went by, I realised how exciting it was to read blog posts of other students, learn from them, and share my own experiences. I also think if we were not full-time working students blog discussions would be even more lively and vibrant than they are at the moment.
Now, as I have almost got through it, I am happy to give two, I believe, the most pertinent pieces of advice to current and future online students. First, if studying is not the only thing you are dealing with at the moment (especially if you are studying online and working full-time), plan your time accordingly. You cannot guess at the future and you never know what is going to happen the next day; therefore if you have several hours/days of free time, write your assignments. One thing that worked perfectly for me was doing tasks ahead. It saved so much time and gave a relief when I got busier at work but had my papers written. The other thing is contacting your instructor every time you get a question or concern related to the task. It is always better to ask than try to guess whether you are on the right track. Remember that your score and successful course completion partly depend on the quality of papers you submit.
Finally, there is one thing I would change if I were the instructor of the English for Thesis Writing course. Instead of writing a mini thesis I would make student focus on their main thesis. To help them in the process of writing I would give assignments directly related to Master’s thesis. For example, the ones with an emphasis on paraphrasing, synthesis writing, and cohesion and coherency achievement would be helpful for the majority and supportive of those having difficulties.