If You Have Taken Some, What Do You Like About Online Learning?

Why reading about wacky or perplexing pop-up notes taught me to appreciate my children’s education.

Hi, my name is Maryanne. I’m a recent transplant to the internet culture scene, living across the street from a news agency that operates a 24/7 news web site. My job as a Global News Blogs editor gives me the privilege of receiving frequent emails from readers and hearing their opinions on everything from political and societal issues to pop culture to current events. Most days I just sit at my desk and wish these readers would stop sending me such thought-provoking emails. But not always. Sometimes I doze off for a minute and then wake up to receive an email from a reader in my Gmail and say, “I wanted to let you know I learned an information lesson on this coffee mug.” Or, “I was really impressed with your way of teaching–now let’s go have lunch.” And on and on. My job encourages me to accept and respond to this inane correspondence. But not everyone I answer to is so congenial. Occasionally I find myself reading a few of these emails at breakfast and suddenly I don’t even want the blueberry croissant.

Recently, one of these emails came from an anonymous man with “excellent manners”. He was asking me if I ever took a class online. I was interested, but so many emails went to God knows where (I think I had permission from my wife to provide little incantations upon stumbling upon the sordid dens of division), I simply couldn’t respond in time. Then one day, a month later, I got another anonymous email: “I would love to take a computer class here.” I thought I would figure out where he got the idea that I might learn anything from a class on a website! A few keystrokes later and I suddenly knew: it must be because his e-mail address listed his name as “Russell”. I could not figure out why he needed my email address to contact me. Then I figured out the hint: in the email he wrote that this computer class would be a test, and that while he knew the material, he was still testing himself to ensure he was spending his money wisely.

I’ve heard it all before. People tell me they will teach me a lot, but they don’t always follow through. Do I blame them? I really do. It’s hard to follow through when you’re not even sure how to do it. I e-mailed Russell back, but I wasn’t prepared to answer him. (I realize this is the eternal experience of a blogger.) He wrote, “Dear Maryanne, on your e-mail you said I sent you a nice email. Isn’t that impossible? Everyone replies thank you for your beautiful, sweet, innocent emails. I wasn’t asking for anything. I just wanted to know if you would take the test.”

I don’t know if he was joking. I could reply, “Please stop sending me these crazy e-mails!” or I could respond, “It would be nice if you could tell me how you did. That would be lovely.” But he didn’t reply, so I sent a simple reply to the question of whether or not I might take a computer class on “Smelling Meaning from the Sun”. I was hoping he would respond, but when he didn’t, I decided I had better catch him without setting him up for an embarrassing guilt trip.

When the cat looks back on my life, he’ll likely say, “I know that girl you studied with in a class!”

Well, that just happened. You know those times when you are trying to get something done (a creative spark, making a food reservation) and you absolutely have to do it, but you get so caught up in thinking, “But I have class tonight” or “That kid hates me.” And then you just go ahead and do it anyway, hoping you can make it to class in time. Then you’re late. Your cube neighbour hears this and is like, “Okay, I’ll guess he just took the class.”

I know. It is a pretty brutal cycle.

But occasionally, just occasionally, someone does a nice thing and sends me an honest, detailed, and actual email about taking a class on the internet. One that I know I can be thanked for taking it.

One last piece of advice for readers: Never take a class if you feel like you’re just going to make up a number for that class to fulfill your syllabus. You might score a few points, but don’t put

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