The University of North Dakota offers several self-paced, enroll-anytime (SPEA) courses, in addition to traditional, semester-based online courses. My name is Kate Blalock, and I’m a stay-at-home mom who is taking an enroll anytime course for the first time. I invite you along for the ride as I share my experiences and impressions of the SPEA program.
I have been taking Management 300 for about two weeks, and I am pleased with the progress I have made. I have completed six lessons and am preparing to take the first exam. All my lessons have been graded promptly, and the instructor’s feedback has been personal and helpful. The structure of this course differs from most online courses–there are no lectures, forums, or discussion boards. SPEA courses are independent study and the only interaction in the virtual classroom is between the student and the professor. This format wouldn’t work for every course, but it applies well to Management 300. The biggest challenge I have encountered with the course so far is how tedious the lessons can be. Because there is no student-to-student interaction, the course is limited to reading the textbook and completing assignments from the textbook’s website. Once you can get past the repetitive nature of the lessons, however, it is refreshing to be able to work at your own pace.
My SPEA course is heavily structured from the textbook, and I need to take a lot of notes to succeed in this class. I set aside an hour a day to work on the course while my son takes a nap. I am the type of person who needs absolute quiet to read and take notes, so this method worked well for me. I have a dedicated notebook for this course and take my notes by hand. There are many ways I could study for each assignment, and the instructor does a great job of giving me options. For each lesson there is an assigned reading, an online summary, and a PowerPoint presentation to help me prepare for the assignment. It’s easiest for me to read the summary first, take notes from the PowerPoint, and then skim the textbook. The assignments so far have all been practice quizzes except for one short-answer written assignment. My study strategy has worked out well, and I have gotten good grades on the assignments.
My schedule has cleared up drastically now that the holidays are over, and I could keep to my goal of completing three lessons a week. It was nice to be able to pause my coursework over the holidays and then resume when I had the time. I’m not going to keep up with this pace, however, because the spring semester started this week. To allow more time for my other classes I will be completing only one lesson a week. At this pace I should finish my SPEA course in April.
I am now getting ready to take the first exam. I don’t have easy access to an exam proctor; even if I did, it’s hard to schedule time for exams being a stay-at-home mom. Instead, I use ProctorU, an online proctoring service that has partnered with the University of North Dakota. SPEA exams have a few more steps than simply designating a proctor for the course. For each exam, SPEA students must fill out a “request for exam” form, which is listed in the course Blackboard site. Here, you can designate your proctor and list the date and time you want to take the exam. It’s important to note that your online exam might not be available for three to five business days after you submit the form, so keep that in mind when scheduling with your proctor. SPEA students are also required to have all the previous lessons completed before they take the exam. You can work ahead, but you can’t take the exam before you complete the lessons. After submitting my request form, I scheduled my test with ProctorU. I’m going to spend the rest of the week studying my notes for the exam, which will cover the six lessons I’ve completed so far.
I’ve settled into the routine for this SPEA course and the workload is comparable to a semester-based course. Although the work can be tedious and one-sided without the regular interaction of fellow students, I am succeeding in class and enjoying the course so far. In my next blog post, I’ll share some of my study methods and homework tips, and I’ll also share how to create a positive workspace for homework.