Am I ready for college? Do I really feel up to the academic challenge of college course work? Does the thought of going to college feel daunting? These are some questions I asked myself at the tail end of my sophomore year of high school. Then the prospect of taking a PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) class started looking like an appealing option: the chance to take college classes as a junior and senior in high school, while getting credit for both high school and college!
To work around a trip I took in early September 2004, which conflicted with the start dates for most colleges, I chose to take my first PSEO class online. I thought that it would be a nice introduction to college classes. I could figure out what was expected of me and the kind and amount of homework assigned. An online class would also allow me the flexibility to do course work at any given time throughout the week, so it would work well with my family’s busy schedule, and I could conveniently fit it around my other classes and activities.
I took a four-credit American Government & Politics class from the University of Minnesota at Morris, through its GenEdWeb program. GenEdWeb is an online general education program, which offers six classes each semester and two courses in each of two summer sessions, all of which are taught by professors from Morris. Signing up was very easy. I simply completed the online Course Registration form, and sent the other information Morris requested: the PSEO Notice of Student Registration form, my transcript showing the high school classes I had completed, and a Request for Official Transcript form. I also included a teacher letter of recommendation. Within a week, an acceptance letter arrived in the mail! It was as simple as that. I didn’t have to go to the college campus at any point in time; all information and class materials were promptly mailed to my home. (Update 8/13: Online learning information for U of M Morris can now be found at http://onlinelearning.morris.umn.edu/)
Online classes are similar to those that you would normally take on any college campus, with two big differences. Rather than going to a class that meets at a particular time, you chose when to do the class work during each week. Also, there is no in-person interaction with your professor or classmates. The politics class I took involved watching two to three 20-minute video-streamed lectures a week, reading from two textbooks, writing short essays in response to each lecture topic (as well as occasional essays relating to current world events), and interacting with my classmates and professor through the online discussion boards. I was also given three paper and pencil tests, throughout the semester, by a proctor (in my case, a friend and homeschool teacher who had been a high school career counselor).
For the most part, my online class was an excellent introduction to college course work. I enjoyed taking the American Government & Politics course. I particularly liked one of the textbooks, and it was interesting to hear other people’s points of view, especially since it was in the midst of the 2004 presidential elections. There was one major drawback; I didn’t feel as though I received adequate feedback. I emailed the professor to ask how I was doing with the weekly essays, and if there was anything that needed improvement in my writing. But my professor responded by saying that he didn’t give grades mid-semester – which did not actually answer my broader question. Although this was not the response I expected or wanted, I did enjoy the class, and learned a great deal about the political scheme of things. Overall, it was an educational opportunity that I’m glad I experienced.
In my upcoming senior year, I am eager to explore more classes on a college campus where I can interact in-person with my classmates and professors. I will be attending Century Community College this fall and am planning to take two PSEO classes each semester. I am very excited to continue this new venture in my homeschooled education and find out where life takes me.
(This article was written by Anya Abrahamson and published in The Grapevine in 2005.)