Sunday, July 12, 2020

School one month check-in

I started my fist foundation course at University of the People a little over a month ago, so I thought it was time for an update.

So far, school is going well. I just have one course right now, Introduction to Online Learning. It's a Foundations course, meaning it is a course I have to complete and pass prior to being admitted as a degree-seeking student. Part of the purpose of Foundations courses is to prepare students for their degree courses, but there is also an element of quality control. The reality is that not every student will make it through this phase. Some simply won't keep up and will drop out, while others won't receive a grade high enough to continue on. This helps ensure that those students who do move on to become degree-seeking students have demonstrated the ability to perform at the college level.

Some of my classmates are still learning English, even as they are taking this course. Some of them may need to stay in the Foundations phase longer to also take courses in English composition since all courses are conducted in English.

Each week so far the work has gotten harder, and more is asked of us. This week we have three written assignments and a quiz. This week's paper needs to be one page longer than the previous paper, and our discussion post responses this week need to be at least 100 words, up from fifty words last week. By the end of this course, we should be working at the level required for our degree courses.

UoPeople App
When I did my Associates's degree online in 2008 the format was similar. We had assigned reading each week, a discussion board requirement, and usually a written assignment of some sort as well. But at that time, while some of our textbooks were available as PDFs, most of them were still actual hard-copy books that we had to order and pay for. The era of the smartphone was still several years off, so while my courses were online, I could still only access them from my desktop computer. 

Today, at UoPeople, all of my course materials are
Moodle App
digital and provided as part of the course. We also have access to several online libraries for doing research, as well as a writing center. All of it is accessible either from the Moodle app which is on my phone and tablet, or I can enter my courses through the University's own app which I also have loaded on my mobile devices. This means wherever I am, I can do my coursework without the need to be at my desk. It is super-easy to pull up the assigned reading whether I'm lying in bed, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Last week there was a lull at the food pantry while I was volunteering, so I got a head-start on my reading for this week's unit and caught myself up on my discussion board feedback. What otherwise would have been two hours of having nothing to do, ended up being productive and gave me a head start on the next unit. 

In orientation, we learned that each course will require about fifteen hours per week of study time and I am finding that to be accurate. I prepare for the week by organizing my work in my Google Drive with a new folder, and a Google Doc for each written assignment. I do that on Thursday night, so I can do the reading and take notes on Friday night. I like to get my discussion board post done on Saturday, then I have the rest of the time to focus on the main written assignment for the week. Bringing up the rear is our learning journals, which consist of answering another question about the reading and usually some analysis of the week's work.

And with that, I need to end this post so I can go get started on this week's paper! I'll leave you with a video tour of the UoPeople Campus on Moodle. The video is five years old, so the Moodle interface looks a bit different now, but the content is mostly the same.