Making Time for Online: A Newbie Learns a New Way to Learn — and Likes It

November 29, 2012 / by / 1 Comment

By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

After “work,” my work begins again — often on the couch or at the dining room table, where I hunch over essays and peer-reviewed journal articles in a freakish posture that would disturb ergonomics experts.

Other nights, I am exiled to a little desk at the guest bedroom to avoid annoying my wife with the incessant tapping on my laptop.

Like nearly 45,000 other online GCU students, many of whom are fellow working professionals, the online classroom has become part of my daily routine. I work as a senior writer on GCU’s communications team during the day and spend the rest of my time studying toward a master’s degree in criminal justice.

GCU Today writer Michael Ferraresi at the nightly grind for his online master's degree program. (Photo by Michael Ging)

At first, the online classroom struck me as too mechanical. The routine discourse in the online classroom leads up to posting researched essays each Wednesday like clockwork. I wondered if this would annoy me. But it actually helps me to focus. By the time the essay is due at the end of a weekly module, I feel I have a complete list of concepts, sources and thoughts to thoughtfully respond to the writing assignment. 

Each eight-week course is a microcosm of our vast and diverse online student body. My first online class included an instructor who works in Arizona’s juvenile justice system, a police officer in Dallas, and a woman who listed the Marshall Islands as her preferred time zone.

In that course, I earned my first “A” since my undergraduate journalism studies more than 10 years ago. So the 94.5 percent mark felt like a major accomplishment.

The sense of achievement immediately morphed into a mindset of stress and failure when I returned from work on Oct. 22 to find my home burglarized. Along with irreplaceable heirlooms, my laptop (with class notes I had yet to back up) was lost. My focus on coursework also was lost.

My academic counselor phoned to check on me because of the delay in my posts to the online discussion forums. This amazed me. I’m not sure many instructors at my past universities would take the time to check in with a student missing for one week. Without her call, I would have fallen behind. Instead, we settled on dropping the course and rescheduling just one month later.

No problem. No rush. No lost time or damage to the GPA.

With that, I found myself like so many of the online students interviewed for GCU Today or those who write my team with praise for their counselors. There’s a personal connection to the online classroom, in spite of the lack of face-to-face contact. Honestly, the sound of my counselor’s voice soothed me. 

From advisers to faculty to the students I rely on to keep discussion in the cyber-classroom, I feel more and more like I’m part of a team with a shared purpose. 

Now if I could only improve my posture, that dash to the degree might be less painful.

Are you a GCU online student with a story to share? Contact Michael Ferraresi at 602.639.7030 or Michael.ferraresi@gcu.edu.


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One Response
  1. Vikki Perry

    Hello Michael.
    Thank you for this article. As I read it, your story reminded me so much of my life and the time that the events took place. I began my grad study online in September. I was off to a great start with my grades, also. Then at the end of October, Hurricane Sandy hit us, blowing a tree onto my house and through the roof and ceiling. It devastated me. I kept in contact with my instructor and counselor, who continued to keep in touch with me. I continued on with the class, but the instructor did not give me a deadline. Everyone was very understanding. It is great to know that I am not crazy; the workers here at GCU really do sincerely care about their students. I have not had this type of concern shown towards me at any other school I have attended. I am grateful.
    Thank you fo sharing your story.

    Jan.14.2013 at 7:45 am
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