Next week, I will complete my first online course, a certified course from the University of Washington – Leadership and Management in Health. The first time I came across the course was last year. I was a busy house officer in Ile-Ife and didn’t think I met the requirements for the course. When I saw it again this year, I felt better qualified to take it. What I didn’t see coming was the unique challenge of completing an online course.
The course was designed to last twelve weeks with weekly modules and quizzes, occasional group discussions and an individual learning plan filled and submitted at stipulated intervals. Given my professional background in health and my interest in leadership and management, I considered the course fit to groom this interest and enable me to succeed better at it.
When I started the course, however, I began to fidget and feel that I was poorly suited for it. I found it hard to correlate the examples given and questions asked to my current workplace as a corp doctor in a theology school clinic. I called a friend, who was taking the same course, to communicate how I felt inadequate and worried that I made a mistake registering for the course. I told him I found the lessons quite lofty and asked how he was fairing, and he encouraged me to put in my best.
The due date of the first week’s assignment would meet me calculating the difference in hours between West African Time (WAT) and Pacific Time (PT). The deadline for submission of assignments was usually 11:59 pm PT on Sundays and results were posted the following Monday. Seeing that we were eight hours ahead of them afforded me some extra time. I stayed up that Sunday night trying to complete the week’s module and assignment, and resolved to do better the next week but instead fared worse. I failed to submit my assignment before the deadline. Thankfully, assignments are still open a week after their due dates with no penalty even though they will be flagged late. Those late tags made me feel a tad sad.
At this juncture, I had to seek help. When a friend tweeted that she needed practical tips for completing an online course, I retweeted. I feared that I may flunk out of my online school as there were minimum set requirements for successfully completing the course. Dr John Afam would later share some tips in a thread that I found helpful.
Sharing what you are learning on social media or with your friends can help you stay motivated.
I did this with my friend who was also taking the course and it contributed to my grit and the fun. I had to discipline myself too to put in the work, creating time to read and do my assignments. I would add here: Deal ruthlessly with procrastination by prioritising your learning and committing to the process.
I also learned to do what I had to do even if I had to do it afraid. For example, there were some questions I did not think I had the answer to at first glance, but confronting my fears by studying the questions and rereading the modules (if there was a need to) helped me provide answers I was proud of in the end. In addition, taking the course helped me understand my most preferred mode of learning as the lectures were delivered in video, audio and written formats.
The brightest part of this experience, beyond all I learned and hope to put into practice, was how it lighted the desire to learn more online – picking new skills and refining old ones. I am raising a glass to more learning!
Finally, do not take an online course merely because another person is doing so. Be sure to have a genuine interest in the subject matter, and when you do, don’t go through it for the sake of doing so, endeavour to get value out of it.
Are you a novice or veteran when it comes to online courses? What challenges do you face with it and have you identified any means of succeeding at it? Please, share in comments.