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My Online Class

This is how Butterfly feels about school.

This is how Butterfly feels about school.

I spent the whole summer freaking out about the first online class for my masters in social work, as some of you know. I’m a very anxious student. I always worry that I won’t finish my work in time, and rush and rush, until I’ve finished everything by Tuesday, when it’s not due until Sunday. There is a lot of work for my online Human Rights and Social Justice Class: first of all, because it’s a graduate class, and second because it’s all in eight weeks, so each week is like two weeks of a regular semester. I take notes on everything: the chapters from the terrible textbooks, the scholarly articles, the radio programs, and the video lectures. Even when the information is duplicated and quadruplicated, I take notes each time, just in case I missed something.

I hope this will calm down soon and I will start to trust myself a bit with this new school format. I’m kind of enjoying arguing with all of these authors as I read their work – and one of our weekly assignments for class is a reflection journal to “process” what we’ve learned, so I can rant and go off on tangents and have my say and, eventually, the teacher has to read it.

Human Rights and Social Justice as a title for a class sounds daunting. It suggests a seriousness and a comprehensive-thousand-page-thesis vision of learning, but the reality of the class has been more down to earth. The Professor focuses on manageable doses of vocabulary and ideas, rather than expecting the TRUTH to come down from heaven and infuse us with a burning light.

There is an acceptance that these terms are so big as to be almost meaningless, or to carry many meanings within them. We each use these terms, and every term we learn in the jargon of social work, to mean specific things that they may not mean to other people: words like distributive justice, and equal rights, and positionality, and intersectionality, and internalized oppression, and on and on.

Cricket has already let me now her feelings about my watching the video lectures on the computer. She’s used to me reading quietly, or looking at blogs and pictures on line, but for the computer to talk, and for so long, makes her very angry. She had a big bad case of Barking Tourette’s during the longer of the two lectures, and I almost lost my mind.

“What the heck is that?”

“I must bark it to death!”

We have twenty one or twenty two students in our class and I read everything they write, because a lot of my classmates are already working at social service agencies and have valuable experiences to share, and because it’s nice to know someone’s out there reading and thinking about the same things I am. The online format is surprisingly intimate, and thorough, compared to in-person classes, because everyone gets a chance to have their say, and to respond to each comment that interests them. We don’t have to compete for attention, or fit our comments into a limited time period. We have all week to think and write and read at our own pace – and the professor can hear and respond to everyone, with no need to pick only one or two voices to speak for all of us.

Most of the work for the class is reading and then writing responses, but some percentage of the final grade will come from the final exam – a forty question multiple choice test that I will take on my home computer. Their answer to how to make sure we are not cheating is a service called ProctorU, where you sign in and someone sits there and watches you on your web cam, and talks to you, and checks out your environment, and makes sure you have no unacceptable resources. It looks really creepy. I am much more anxious about the process of being proctored online than I am about the final exam itself.

Maybe Butterfly could sit in front of the computer for me. Do you think they'd notice the difference?

Maybe Butterfly could sit in front of the computer for me. Do you think they’d notice the difference?

With my luck, Cricket will take an instant dislike to the proctor talking at us from my computer screen, and will spend the whole test barking, until my head splits open and all of that studiously gathered information spills out all over the floor.

“Cricket is ready.”

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

71 responses »

  1. You’ll be great! I have to tell you, I’m teaching an online course this semester, and Sir Maxwell has decided that the headset I wear while recording videos for the class is an alien creature eating my brain and he must bark it into submission. My class is thankfully very understanding!

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  2. You are too funny.. That look of Butterfly telling us what she thinks, says a lot! And poor Cricket… I got my laughter for the day.. Thank you!

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  3. Your description of Cricket barking is hysterical. I wanted to share with you the name of website that sells CDs with music that calms dogs. My vet put me on to it and it makes my dogs settle down and go to sleep. The website is called “Through a Dog’s Ears.” Someone did research and learned that dog’s respond to certain tones and not to others, so they put together a classical music tape with all of these tones. Good luck with your class.

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  4. You are very brave to have that web cam on and they talk to you through it, or something. I won’t even skype! Thank heaven Cricket is there to save you.

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  5. I’m sure you will do fine.

    Ariel listens to my cds, but she panics if the music is too modern! (Dog and art critic all in one).

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  6. Everything will turn out great- you will see! The babies will give you a lot of support! 🙂

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  7. You are going to do great! If you’re worried about Cricket barking, you can either put her in another room or give her a chewie 😉

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  8. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    I can relate to barking fits due to a talking computer….head phones!

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  9. The dogs know that you’re “too cool for school”. This specialized jargon just gets you to think like them instead of for yourself. It’s (to use their method) institutionalized opression.

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  10. I teach online classes too and most students find it quite manageable and even ‘enjoyable.’ Glad you are having a positive experience with yours! As for proctored exams, sounds old fashioned to me. I just give “open-book” tests. Who memorizes anything any more in this day of the Internet? Good luck!

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  11. Let me know what happens if you use Butterfly as a stand in! Great post…

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  12. I have to say that from your enthusiasm, you will do extremely well, the will is strong. 🙂 Now about Cricket, that I have nothing because the odds that Cricket decides the moderator is not acceptable are pretty good; maybe Butterfly can talk her down before the test. 🙂

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  13. You should engage Cricket in some support role so he’d not feel neglected when you listen someone talking. Bumble didn’t like my online course either, initially, but then I engaged him as a “watcher” and he gradually adapted 🙂

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    • I don’t think Cricket is very interested in Human Rights, though. She might be more willing to get involved if I took a class in Doggy rights. But even then, she’s really only concerned with Cricket’s rights.

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  14. Cricket and Butterfly both seem quite relaxed about your course. Best of luck!

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  15. It’s interesting Cricket gets so angry about the video lectures. I guess she sees them as a rival for your affections.

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  16. You had me laughing out aloud again with the ‘barking Tourette’s’
    This is very interesting to me to hear you talk of ‘intimacy’ within the on line class – I am in the process of launching a split programme of on line and face to face teaching with the student nurses. I was very proud (and relieved) to have given a one hour presentation to 140 students and 10 teachers entirely in French (well some might argue – but they all understood, and I made them laugh three times)
    Not all are happy about having to use on line content, but I am going to use some of your points, to soften the blow.
    Thank you Rach – try not to work too hard next week – buy Cricket some ear phones and play Nora Jones to her (Willow LOVES Nora Jones and she cals her instantly)
    Looking forward to ‘The Sunday Papers’ next week
    Lindy x

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    • I might have to have the ear phones implanted into Cricket’s head, or else she will tear them off and lose her ears in the process.

      The variety of techniques you can use in an online class are really astounding. You can do power point presentations, with voice threads; you can do videos or link to videos all over the place. You can do discussion boards and of course email. You could even have the whole class listen to a few minutes of Nora Jones before doing an assignment, to calm them down!

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  17. Wow it sounds like a lot of reading and a lot of material- so wonderful you are doing it- except for the barking part!!

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  18. Barking Tourette’s – love it! I hope you don’t mind if I “borrow” that term sometime…

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  19. Rachel the online student…hm…let me think about that. I’m afraid that totally puts you in one of my cherished categories of people that I deeply admire: the Truth Seekers. I’ve known several of “those” people in my life, and I find them to be incredibly intense about whatever pursuits call them. I predict you will be a successful student – minus any help from Cricket and Butterfly who are not Truth Seekers but Peace Seekers – and who will find your online courses disruptive to their routines. We wish you much happiness in your acquisition of Truth process. Get back to us about your grade. 🙂

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  20. Your anxiety underscores your humanity, the perfect companion and skill for pursuing social work. Smile, breath and enjoy the process. Think of how great you’ll be when you’ve completed it! 🙂

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  21. I love your posts, Rachel, but this one was a riot. Yeah, the webcam sounds so old school. But I think if you position Butterfly right in front of the cam showing how she feels about school and have Cricket off camera, barking–that proctor will be gone in a heartbeat. Don’t mess with the girls, Mr Proctor!!

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  22. I love online courses. I did postgrad work that way and more recently have done a couple of Coursera courses in things as diverse as Fantasy and Science fiction and Macroeconomics. I love the way the internet has opened up the world to us.

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  23. Thanks for describing the on-line class experience. I have wondered what it is like and now have a better idea. My dog also barks when my computer starts talking. For some reason, it is different from the tv talking, although I have no idea what the difference is for her.

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  24. Best wishes as you study. I’m sure the “gallery” will settle down and study right beside you.

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  25. Good luck in your classes, I think you are going to do very well in the program. Cricket just has her own ideas about social justice, which may not match the ones in the course.

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  26. It sounds like you are well immersed and learning well in the online environment! I start a class next week on teaching online myself…hopefully Sophie won’t be barking (as she is now) in the background for the video lectures.

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  27. The part about having 22 students in the class and reading everything they write sounds a lot like blogging.

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  28. On the plus side, if Cricket barks the whole time during the exam, you’ll have a great blog post out of it!

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  29. nothing like a dog sticking out its tongue! very cute!

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  30. Your dogs aware Sooo cute!

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  31. Awesome! I’m an online student pursuing my master’s degree. I also work for an online university! 🤗

    Reply

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