'Test Drive' Allows Students to Try Online Learning Before Applying
Despite the growing prominence of technology in the workplace and home, education is still thought to be the property of brick-and-mortar schools. While online education is becoming more popular, many students are still uncertain about taking a fully-online class, let alone getting a degree online. For many, that trepidation comes from an unfamiliarity with the online learning platform, as well as a fear that they don’t have the technical skills to figure it out.
Addressing that fear is partially why Drexel University created the online Test Drive. The purpose of the award-winning Test Drive is to let potential online students try out the online learning platform before they apply, at no cost to them.
Think of it like buying a car: before you commit, you have to give it a test drive to try it out. The week-long event lets would-be students introduce themselves to potential classmates, ask questions to Drexel Ambassadors and even practice submitting a sample assignment, all while getting a feel for the Blackboard learning platform.
For some participants, the Test Drive has been a game-changer in their search to find the right online program. Melanie Finn, a high school physics teacher interested in the Graduate Certificate in Educational Policy, had already applied to Drexel before signing up for the Test Drive, but she was a little nervous about taking a class entirely online. She decided to participate in the Test Drive to get herself comfortable using Blackboard.
“I thought it was very well organized and easy to follow. With any technology, there’s always a little bit of poking around, but I feel like I didn’t have to poke around a lot to actually do what they were expecting me to do. It was easy to find the discussion threads, it was easy to find where to submit assignments, those sorts of things,” Finn said. “I did find it helpful. Yesterday the course that I’m signed up for officially opened, and I felt very comfortable logging into the interface. Finding the syllabus was easy, all the contact information, so I felt like I had a leg up and knew what to expect when I logged into that course.”
Finn said that she was able to go into her course feeling a lot more confident about the online learning environment, which helped her focus on her studies. So, would she recommend Drexel and the Test Drive to other students thinking about starting their online education?
“Absolutely, if for no other reason than they actually offered a Test Drive. It’s very clear with the time and effort that went into the Test Drive that Drexel cares and wants their students to be successful and give them that chance to get a feel for it. I would absolutely turn people to Drexel because of this,” Finn said. “The other programs that I was considering hasn’t done nearly as much. I’m less interested in that program by far than the Drexel program.”
For Catherine Brophy, the online classroom wasn’t such a scary place. She had taken a number of online courses in the past, and had even worked as a planner and creator of online courses for teachers (she was interested in the Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design). Since she knew her way around Blackboard, she found herself more impressed with other aspects of the Test Drive besides the platform tutorials. Her favorite part? Surprisingly, the email reminders.
“I really liked (and appreciated) the friendly, supportive emails leading up to the Test Drive,” Brophy said, noting that not only were they helpful reminders, but they showed Drexel cared to keep reaching out to participants. “I really enjoyed the daily emails checking in to see how my experience was going.”
While she might have been familiar with the virtual learning platform, Brophy thought the Test Drive would be the perfect introduction to online learning for anyone who didn’t feel as comfortable taking classes online.
“The Test Drive was great. If I had been unfamiliar with online courses and Blackboard, the Test Drive team was present in the course and supportive and friendly, which is especially important if someone is new to online learning,” she said. “I definitely would recommend the Test Drive for anyone who is unfamiliar with learning online.”