By Theresa Paterra
Theresa Paterra is a recent graduate of WGU’s online Teachers College, having earned her bachelor’s degree in Special Education in January 2013. She is a mother of three daughters living in McKeesport, PA. After staying home to raise her daughters, she has recently realized her lifelong dream of teaching. She works as a paraprofessional in the special education system.
I was used to the brick-and-mortar institutions where one signed up for classes, if one could get a slot, and hope that none of the classes were at 7 a.m. on a Saturday.
Regardless of the classes that one chose, a time and place was attached to the schedule, and one knew where to be and when. Online learning was a nuance for me.
The new environment at WGU was simple: Post to peers, answer discussion threads, and complete assignments by midnight of a certain date. The place was in the den, at a computer desk, and while wearing pajamas sometimes. The importance of building a pace, schedule, and agenda became quickly evident as deadlines for three to five courses fused into the already busy life of a married working mother.
There are necessary steps to ensure success for self-pacing.
First, open the syllabus, and read it entirely. How long does it take one to write an essay, or read a chapter in an e-text? These are important factors in timing.
Chart the monthly goals: when the classes start and end, when the assessments are due. Align studies with the results of pre-assessments and retake the pre-assessments, and allow three to five days for the results of final assessments to post.
Chart the weekly schedule on a calendar: when assignments are due, what time of the day one intends on focusing to study.
Invest in an agenda book and chart daily tasks: what chapters will be read that day, what essays will be written that day, what posts to discussion threads and peers will be conducted, and what tests will be taken.
I devoted myself to three hours a night and spread my work out. On Monday, I read the chapters necessary for the assignments and took pre-assessments; Tuesday, I drafted the essays; Wednesdays, I posted to discussion threads and peers; Thursdays, revised and finalized essays; and Fridays, posted to peers, submitted essays, and took final assessments.
There were still several times that I bled into the weekends to finish a task, and did it at 7 a.m. while the kids were still sleeping. However, seeing the tasks charted and broken down made life easier.
When I worked on assignments a little each day, it was not so daunting. It is much better than waking up on a Sunday morning and realizing that one has a five-page essay due the next day without even an inkling of what the topic is about.