In the midst of the hustle and bustle of her senior year, Alexis Dizenzo accepted a 24-hour per week internship as a freelance stylist assistant and sample coordinator at Vineyard Vines Headquarters in Stamford, CT. This was an internship that could potentially lead to a job in her field of digital journalism and marketing.
Of the five-day work week, Dizenzo dedicated three full days to her internship. In an effort to gain vital work experience prior to graduating, she struggled finding a balance between her mandatory school work and her dream job.
At Fairfield University, each semester a student is allowed to enroll in one online course. During the Winter and Summer Intersessions, students are allowed to enroll in as many online courses as they like, but that comes with a price. Each Winter and Summer Intersession course costs $2,175.
Although there is a limit to one online class per semester, some special circumstances can result in an exception. If a student like Dizenzo has an internship obligation that physically prevents them from being at campus to attend physical classes, an exception for taking two online classes may be made.
“I emailed Dean [Andrea] Martinez explaining that working 24 hours a week is a lot for a full time college student,” Dizenzo wrote in an email. “With an online class I am able to work freely on assignments on my own time rather than have to work my schedule around a class schedule that is very limited.”
Taking online courses for Dizenzo gave her the opportunity to have the best of both worlds: complete her education on time, while also getting a head start on her career.
“I think that online courses are more beneficial for students that have busy schedules outside of the classroom with work and sports,” Dizenzo continued. “I know that with my work schedule this second online course is relieving a lot of stress and worry I had about finding time to do everything I needed to throughout the week.”
Online courses can clearly be beneficial in balancing a schedule. Online courses give students the opportunity to make room in their physical schedule for other things such as internships, sports, clubs and work.
An online course is a Fairfield University course taught by a Fairfield University professor through an online platform called Blackboard. On Blackboard, the professor is able to assign and collect work in a mutual setting attainable for all students. At Fairfield, any course that is approved to be taught in-person, can also be taught online without a second approval process.
There are a three different types of online courses. The first, is a full semester course taught completely online. Some of these classes include second level English and writing courses. The second type of online courses are classes condensed to half-semester. These classes include some sciences, music classes, and even some business courses. The third type of online courses offered at Fairfield are called Hybrid courses. These courses are a full semester and split class time between online work, and a physical class time usually once a month.
Junior marketing major Isabella Russo added a Hybrid religion course last semester to her schedule to make room for an extra business course.
“I loved the way the Hybrid course was taught because for three weeks, we didn’t have to go to class, but once a month we all met to discuss the online content,” she said. “It was helpful to meet in-person to clarify the online material, but I still had the freedom of a regular online course.”
Because a second approval process isn’t necessary to make a class ‘online,’ many identical courses are offered in-person and online during the same semester.
Associate Professor of Music Laura Nash, Ph.D., teaches the same course, “Hip Hop and Its Antecedents” on two different platforms during the same semester. One class is a 16-week full semester physical class, while the other is an 8-week condensed version taught online.
Because her specific course was already digitized in the sense of having her physical class watch videos and listen to music, it was easy to transition it to an online class. Both her in-person and online class fill each semester and create waitlists.
Although the same material is being taught, the way students absorb the material is altered to its platform. One requires group work and oral presentations, and the other requires individual work and written responses. But the key thing to know: students in both classes are learning the same exact content.
Students in Nash’s classes absorb the content much differently through the different platforms.
“In my physical class, students have to present what they’ve learned orally, while my online students have to write their responses in journal format,” Nash explained. “It’s the same content of work, but the in-person class has more group work than my online class.”
To Nash, not requiring group work for her online course was an easy decision.
“I think people take [online classes] because they have time constraint issues, and to have people find four people to do group work in an online class, I think is hard,” Nash stated.
Currently, Nash is grading final projects from her in-person class and online class. Nash explained that there is no major differences in grades for the two classes. In both classes there are students that succeed, and students that fail, but there is no real trend of one class performing better than the other. In this area, Nash is pleased to see her students in the online class are retaining the content just as well as the students are in her in-person course.
An online class gives a student the ability to reduce their weekly schedule by removing the usual two, one hour and fifteen minute class from their week. Thus, if a student is trying to bulk up on their classes, it seems smart to add a sixth, online course for half a semester. Therefore, the student for half the semester (8 weeks) will have a schedule of five physical classes, and for the other 8 weeks, they will have a schedule of five physical classes, plus one online course.
Junior Daniel Bjoerck has been adding a ‘sixth’ online course for two semesters now.
“When I learned there were half-semester online courses, I figured that would be a great way to get an extra course in here and there and minimize my senior course schedule,” Bjoerck said. “As a men’s soccer player, an online class gives me the ability to lessen my physical class weekly schedule.”
Most online courses have all the material uploaded to Blackboard at the start time. This allows students to take the class at their own pace, with the exceptions of mutual deadlines.
Junior Brielle Nesto has been taking online courses at her own pace for two semesters now.
“It’s really helpful that all the course materials are on Blackboard. That way, I can get ahead of the class by completing assignments due weeks in advance,” she explained.