Saturday, August 6, 2011

This is (Almost) The Future

For some reason, you’ve decided to take an online graduate level course from another continent. We have the internet! Anything is possible!

Before you get too excited, here are some tips for surviving this endeavor:

1. Check the online course software two weeks before the start of the class.

2. Email your instructors well in advance and explain the situation.

3. Find out about any textbooks at least one month ahead of time if possible.

4. Determine how well the online course software loads in your country of residence.

5. Scope out at least half a dozen internet café alternatives to your usual haunts. The internet will go down. Everywhere.

6. Resist the temptation to have a hissy fit on social media when none of this works properly. Do as I say, not as I do.

In depth explanations and problems you might encounter:

1. Checking the online course software 1-2 months in advance is too soon. Checking the night before is too late.

2. You are not typical. Your instructor probably does not expect someone to take a class at an American, Midwest University from somewhere in Asia, online or not. So far I know of one program specifically designed for this purpose. But it still requires a much more stable internet presence (and a LOT more tuition dollars).

3. Online class does not mean 100% online material just yet, apparently. Silly me. See, almost the future. International textbook shipping is tricky, expensive, and sometimes not even possible.

4. University course websites are labor intensive for slower internet connections. Likewise, online textbook rental (this was not Amazon, nor was that an option) is copyright hyperactive, in beta testing, and extremely buggy. Also, apparently illegal for utilization outside North America, because you know, China might want to steal our ideas about No Child Left Behind or something. I wouldn’t recommend the CourseSmart software at the present time if another option is available. See International Shipping above.

5. Dry season internet is not monsoon season internet. The internet will die just because it’s raining. They will completely redo the wiring at school rendering it impossible to access for a week. Various Thai internet companies will proclaim for the millionth time they really are upgrading to 3G this time. The Thai censorship connection slow down. Your favorite internet café will lose signal. Starbucks in Thailand will charge an arm and a leg for you to use the internet regardless of whether you buy a beverage. Your internet SIM card will be corrupt and require replacement. And when you’ve finally fought through to your material, can you focus on the coursework?

6. Self-explanatory.

Besides the basic tech specifications, it should also be noted that while a foreign teacher in Thailand has a lighter teaching load than an American teacher in the states or an International school, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got that much more energy left for maintaining a compact summer course while teaching. Especially when you end up taking motosai (motorcycle) taxis all over town in search of the internet. It’s kind of exhausting. Though, an American at an International school or higher up the expat food chain would likely have access to more stable internet.

All that said, you’d think my summary would be never do this, right? Wrong. In fact, just to prove my sheer insanity, I’m starting another online graduate class shortly! Why am I doing this to myself? Some combination of renewing my teacher’s license in the long run and sheer masochism. Not the least of which, because neither my home state nor my current country of residence can pin down what on earth it is they want and expect from teachers in order to be ‘legal.’ And I’m rather partial to being legal(ish).

I will say that as far as textbook reading goes, I probably did a better job with this course than in any class throughout high school and undergrad. Progress in relation to attention span and information absorption? Maybe.

Believe you me, I’ve thought about walking down Khao Sarn Road and purchasing myself a Ph.D. in Horribleness and calling it a day.

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