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

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.

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 [email protected].

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20)



Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

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