I have always had an interest in social psychology, the human mind and why people act the way they do. So, when I was recommended by a high school lecturer to take an online course to add on my college application, I saw my chance to merge the two. It was pretty clear to me what I wanted to study even though I also looked at a couple of entrepreneur courses. The name of the course I chose was “Introduction to Social Psychology”, a course from the University of Queensland, in Australia. The course explored how we think about ourselves and others, and how we interact and communicate with others. It also explained why people behave the way they do in social settings. This was also a chance for me to get a feel for social psychology since I am interested in a lot of subjects, but none of which I can see myself studying or working with in the future. In this blog post, I thought I would share my experience of taking an online university course from a foreign country, for the first time.

The layout of the university course
I decided to spend two hours each week and the most convenient thing for me was to spend one hour on Saturday and one on Sunday. The course consisted of a couple of videos with a professor, small activities with the class, polls and activities where you had to tell a personal story related to the topic. At the end of the topic, there was a graded, multiple choice test. This test wasn’t necessarily difficult but it was graded and throughout the course I had not been taking notes so I didn’t answer all the questions correctly. This is something I later found, helped with getting the questions right. The next five weeks had the same structure.

What motivated me to do it?
You might be wondering why I wanted to take an online course. As I mentioned in the beginning, the main reason I did this was because I wanted to merge the opportunity to put this course on my college application, and my interest for social psychology. Moreover, I saw this as my chance to learn more about a topic I am interested in. Before I knew anything about what I would actually study within psychology at my high school, I wanted to learn more about body language, how we act in a group, and how others affect us. All of this, is part of social psychology. I once heard that to fully realize what I want to do and study in the future, I need to experience it more. I thus saw my chance to do this with an online course.

How was it different from my high school?
The style of the course wasn’t necessary very different from my high school. I don’t know if this is how they teach at the University of Queensland. I found that the video lectures weren’t difficult to understand, nor was the lecturer. What I found was a bit difficult, and what might be a bit difficult for someone who hasn’t studied English a lot, was that the questions on the tests, which were stated in a very formal way, that made them a bit difficult to understand. I cannot really say that my English was improved either. However, what I can say is that it is a good way to maintain your vocabulary. A big difference from technically being at university but studying from home, is that there isn’t any university experience involved. You’re not far from home, you don’t live on the campus, you cannot ask the professor questions or interact with other students.

An evaluation of my overall experience
The question still stands: Did I learn anything? Of course I did! There were a lot of terms and new topics which I had never heard, having only studied a little psychology at my high school. I was mostly interested in exploring the topic further and experiencing an online course. Would I recommend taking an online university course to others? Absolutely, though I cannot say that every course layout is going to be the same as mine. It is a really nice experience and it is a good way to introduce yourself to a topic you’re fascinated by, regardless if you want a certificate or not. If your goal is to get a university experience, an online course won’t give you that. Spending two hours more or less a week is not a huge sacrifice either. If you would like a certificate, however, please take notes from the beginning.

Written by Emily de Connick