Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Online science courses

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I am currently taking prerequisite courses so that I can qualify for nursing school in the near future but what I may not have mentioned was that all of the courses I am taking are online, including my science courses. While ideally science courses should be taken in person with a "wet" lab, circumstances may be such that you are not able to. For example I work full-time and have a family so online courses are just more convenient for me (I can go to school anytime of the day as long as I meet deadlines). With that being said there are definitely some things to consider before enrolling in online classes, particularly science ones.

Is the school you plan on taking your online science courses at legit? It is very important that courses can be transferred so the college offering courses has to be reputable and legit. What do I mean by legit? Usually online science courses that are legit have an on campus component from an accredited college/universities with an already well established reputation. Most major colleges/universities offer at least some online courses but not as many schools offer online science courses so do your research (I am currently taking courses at Cayuga Community College which is part of the State University of New York).

Are you computer savvy? You certainly do not need to be a computer expert to take an online course but you do need to be comfortable with computers because all of your assignments, exams, and even your communication is done online. And although tech, instructor, and even classmate support is available if needed, it isn't immediately available like it would be in a traditional classroom setting. Also some science courses have virtual lab components (like the ones I am taking) so you need to be well versed in different applications. Again they aren't difficult but you have to be comfortable with computers and adapt quickly to learning new things.

Reliable high speed is absolutely needed. If you don't have high speed internet (I really don't know anyone who doesn't to be honest) don't even think about taking any online course let alone a science course. In fact don't even take a traditional college course because many of them are online intensive or have some sort of online component as well. Also you have to be able to get online when you need to so relying on the computers at the public library for example is not going to cut it.

Make sure the online science course has a lab component. This one is tricky because some online science courses don't have a lab component which is needed for nursing school admissions. Make sure you read the description carefully (you can usually tell when there is no lab by the number of credits for the course, i.e. 3 credits versus 4 credits). If there is no lab, see if there is an online separate lab course or if you can do the lab in person (which would be considered a hybrid course). It doesn't matter if the lab is virtual, onsite (at a college campus), or done at home, make sure there is a lab.

Does your school of interest accept online science courses? Transcripts do not annotate whether or not a course was completed online or not but it is possible that the school admissions may "suspect" that a course was taken via distance learning if the school is located in a different state or something. Personally I don't think it is necessary to mention that you are taken courses online as long as it is from a reputable school (see above) but if you are apprehensive, find out from your schools of interest if online science courses are acceptable (I actually did this in the earlier stages of researching nursing programs). If a school however explicitly states that they do not accept online science courses and you have to take your science prerequisites online, then find another school. My experience is that most nursing programs do accept online sciences classes although a few may state a preference for science courses with "wet" labs.

I love taking online courses overall and that includes science courses. I do believe however that taking biology courses online is a little more difficult than in person because you are on your own for the most part and time management is even more crucial. I cannot "wing it" or cram (that is a recipe for failure) and I have to actually read/study and do my assignments by a specific deadline. Exams, while technically open book, still requires understanding of the material because they are strictly timed (i.e., 30 minutes for 25 questions). Also when something goes wrong (I had two incidences over the years, one pretty recently) there is no immediate resolution. Still nothing beats being able to take an exam at 10:30 at night and I actually feel I am learning more online than I would in a traditional class (I would probably fall asleep in night school anyway). Online science courses is definitely not for everyone but so far it works for me.

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