Stenberg eased us into the world of online learning. The first semester is 2 weeks longer and the first two weeks are only one course. This allowed us time to get used to learning in the Moodle classroom and getting accustomed to the expectations of online learning. This was not my first time learning online but it was my first time attempting a full-course load online. This semester would cover everything from basic study skills and critical thinking, to forming therapeutic relationships and an introduction to communication and counselling. When week 3 started I realized quickly I had to get into a routine and work hard to stick to it. There was definitely a fine line when balancing a full-time course load, work, and family life. I would say the first several weeks were some of the toughest, you feel alone and disconnected from the world and from your classmates, unless you know a few beforehand that you can discuss classroom material with. It was a dizzying world of reading, online discussions, more reading, and absorbing as much theory and knowledge as possible. As we got further into first semester, our discussions became more connected and things started to come together in terms of the online classroom discussions we had been told would happen.
Some of the challenges I noticed throughout first semester was first and foremost the loneliness of studying online. I have friends taking in-class nursing programs, they study together, bounce ideas, and socialize outside of class. As someone who is typically outgoing and social this took some adjustment. Another limitation, or difficulty, that I noted was the intense need for discipline in order to stay on task, and get the content I wanted to accomplish that day completed. We have so many distractions in our lives and classwork on the computer does nothing to minimize that. I quickly found where I functioned best and where best to do my studying, for me it was the library. As much as I didn’t want to be away from my daughter, I had to have some separation to stay on task.
Around late-December we were assigned our group assignment for our Basic Concepts course, we began to arrange a time to get together and gathered phone numbers for faster contact. We realized our next challenge of online learning, coordinating 5 group members with very complex work/school/life schedules to sit down together and work on this project. After much haggling and discussion we met several times as a group. We divided the work, and then came back together to assemble the pieces and ensure we transitioned smoothly from one student’s work to the next. In the end it came together really well and we eventually presented our PowerPoint to our classmates. This group project also helped form a supportive group within my cohort where we helped motivate, and encourage one another to keep pushing forward as more assignments came due and more quizzes and exams came up.
As semester 1 came to an end, my group reflected back upon a busy but quick semester 1 and and breathed a sigh of relief. We then looked forward to the challenges that semester 2 would bring and the added dimension of doing our first clinical practice.