As an upper level Biology Major and peer tutor for first year biology courses, Jessica Lu faces a demanding schedule. “I find that besides attending regular required courses, I am usually running around between meetings and office hours and tutorials.” Because of these demands Jessica “didn’t have any time to commit to another course with fully scheduled lectures,” but instead, needed to find a way to stay on top of her degree. In order to optimise her time for the benefit of her grades and personal development, Jessica registered in EOSC 114 and is currently enrolled in EOSC 116 via distance education.
In EOSC 114: The Catastrophic Earth – Natural Disasters Jessica learned about the causes and physical characteristics of disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, storm surges, thunderstorms, tornadoes, landslides, wind waves, meteor impacts, and mass extinctions. With this exciting and diverse course content it is no wonder Jessica “learned a lot about our earth and also the geological area of British Columbia that [she] never knew before!”
Jessica is expanding her understanding of the earth as a complex system this term in EOSC 116: The Mesozoic Earth – Time of the Dinosaurs. Drawing from perspectives in geology, geophysics, atmospheric sciences, oceanography and palaeontology, Jessica is gaining a multifaceted knowledge of the Earth. The course also develops the local geology of BC in terms of a “Mesozoic laboratory.”
The course format is similar in both courses with “a set of notes as part of the learning module in which you [have] roughly two weeks to read. Then a practice quiz [is] available to test your understanding and prepare you for an actual quiz. After about 5 learning modules, this all cumulates into a final that [Jessica] will write on campus.” Similarly, both courses utilize the WebCT Vista online course format, which includes a discussion board. “The discussion board [enables students] to ask questions about the learning material, as well as answer all the review questions posted up by the instructor and the teaching assistants in order to help us prepare for our quiz.” The inclusion of this tool into the course assignments has left Jessica feeling that “the interaction level is pretty high. I found that all the teaching assistants and the instructors answered my questions in a very timely matter and were all very helpful online!”
As a peer tutor for Biology 111 and 121 for the past four terms, Jessica has gained a new insight into distance learning. Her duties as a peer tutor include monitoring discussion boards on WebCT Vista, holding office hours, and attending lectures. Jessica notes that “because of the time that I spend answering questions on Vista, I developed a habit of checking on updates of my other courses and value online learning a lot more.” In fact, Jessica has “gotten to know [her] students quite well just by interacting with them on the discussion board, and it has led [her] to value [her] interaction with [her] own TA and professors for [her] own [distance education] courses.”
Jessica recognizes the potential and benefit of distance courses to her undergraduate degree. She highlights flexibility as the “main difference between in class courses and distance education courses.” Furthermore, she explains, “I am somebody who doesn’t like to be committed to being somewhere three times a week ALL the time and there are certainly days where having to rush to class will stress me out, so I definitely do appreciate the opportunity to take online distance education courses.”
In addition to flexibility, Jessica “finds that [she] enjoys the material more because [she is learning] at [her] own pace, choosing to study a lot in one day when [she] has the time, and then not touching the material for a week if [she] want[s] to.” For Jessica, the overall result of embracing distance education opportunities at UBC has “has definitely made my last year of undergraduate studies easier! Between so many obligations, I have the freedom to learn the materials at my own pace, thus leading to better understanding and better performance!” With a better understanding of the course material, Jessica has been able to reap the benefits of distance education not only in her increased scheduling flexibility but also on her transcript!