Reasons Against Correspondence Courses

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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People are always trying to find a shortcut, a way to make life easier. College students are no different, especially since for many it is their first time out in the real world without the constant supervision of parents and various other authority figures. The actual coursework tends to be not very high on their list of priorities. How to get around it, have more time for extracurricular activities and still get good grades is. In my situation, I was attempting find a way to graduate in December, yet not spend all my time at school. Eighteen hours in one semester seemed to be too much class time. Like many others trying to take the most classes with the least amount of classroom time, I thought correspondence courses would be the perfect solution. You pay for the class and get a lesson book in the mail telling you what chapters to read, what homework to send in, and which of those chapters are on the exam.

When you are ready, the exam is then sent to your local college and you have thirty days to go in and take it. You have nine months to complete the entire course, but other than that there is no time frame. No teacher to prod you along, no early morning class, no due dates looming ahead to take up your time, what easier way to earn credit. You can learn at your own pace within a limit. You never step foot in a classroom, except for that occasional mid-term and final exam. Your instructor is hundreds of miles away. There is no way he can interrupt your schedule or harass you for that missed homework. This sounded like a wonderful idea to me. You may read that description and say to yourself, "these courses are perfect." Wrong. These are actually the very reasons you should steer clear of correspondence courses.

Learning at your own pace can be hazardous to your college career. In the beginning, having no set time to attend class and not having anything due on a certain date may seem like the ideal class, but compare the two. Option number one, you are in a regular classroom. You know that you have an assignment due next week. The week after that you have a test. Sure, you may put it off for a few days, but you know it's coming up and there is no way around it. So you prepare, and in the end you are still on schedule.

Now put yourself in a different situation, taking a course by correspondence. There are twelve lessons and two tests to be completed, but no specific due dates. You have nine months to finish it, and there is a party this weekend. Next weekend is that camping trip with all your friends. You put the work off so long that months have gone by and you haven't accomplished anything. Now you have one month left out of the nine that seemed so far off in the future, and you can only submit three lessons per week. Personally, I started two correspondence courses at the beginning of June. After receiving them, I opened the package and put them on a counter.

Then I took a vacation the next week, took a summer course in July, began full-time classes on campus in August with a myriad of deadlines looming overhead, and have sent in only eight out of twenty-seven correspondence lesson assignments overall. When I prioritized my classes, the ones with specific time limits were much higher on my list. As a result I put off the correspondence courses, and now have to finish nineteen more assignments in three weeks. The lack of a structured environment may not be so great after all.

Not having a professor around, surely that is a plus, right? Let's consider it. Go back and imagine your regular campus class. During class, the instructor can point out which topics he or she finds important and which ones could be skimmed over when studying. Hints are given out almost daily by all instructors regarding the importance of a subject, even if they don't intend to.

They are also available if you have questions about a topic or if something is a little bit unclear to you and you are in need of some extra help. Wow, professors might be good for something after all.

Now consider that great correspondence course with no instructor anywhere around.

Those paper lesson assignments aren't very good at pointing out the significant points of the chapters. If you have a question in the middle of homework, who is going to clarify things for you? Remember that instructor hundreds of miles away? You can try to call him on the phone or e-mail him. I have spent countless hours staring at an empty computer mailbox waiting for a response. Remember, he has regular classes as well with students on campus asking for his help.

Sure, you'll eventually get an answer, but it may take a couple of weeks, and if he misunderstands your question, you are probably just out of luck.