I have completed two months of my four-month online semester at National University in San Diego by now. Instead of chilling under the Californian sun – thanks to Pandemic – I am studying out of the study room in Munich. However, it has to be said that National University makes the most of its online semester for every student. The digital learning platform Blackboard is very intuitive, but also interactive and my positive first impression from January has been confirmed. One advantage, especially during the travel restrictions in times of the pandemic, is that the courses run completely asynchronously, and the nine-hour time difference no longer has any effect.
As a result, you don’t have any classic digital lectures, neither live nor recorded. Nevertheless, in my opinion, you learn more than in the digital semesters at home in Germany. You more or less teach yourself the content by researching contributions to the weekly forum discussion with your fellow students. On the other hand, you work through about three 30-page presentations per week, the content of which is tested in multiple-choice exams in the middle and at the end of the month. Every week, you also have to write a two to three-page case study, and there are also weekly learning videos for which you have to write a summary, which is then also assessed. The course is also completed with a term paper. Since each course lasts only one month, you also deal with the topics very intensively. The only drawback here is that there is a guiding reading for each course, which you also have to buy. If you are lucky, you can find a cheap e-book on the Internet, otherwise you have to take the e-book of the National University, which costs a bit more.
However, the exam performances can vary slightly from course to course, but the workload is always about the same and definitely doable. However, you have to stay on the ball, since exams are taken every week. You can also prepare well for the multiple-choice exams, sites like Quizlet or CourseHero have many test exams with similar questions so you can get a good feel for the difficulty. All in all, though, the difficulty level is below German universities despite the higher workload. It should actually be possible for every student to achieve very good grades with a reasonable amount of effort. Another difference to Europe, and especially Germany, is that the lecturers really reward effort and good performance and don’t get hung up on small mistakes.
The exchange with the lecturers also takes place on a much more personal level and as a student you are always addressed by your first name. In addition, you can expect a much faster response than is usually the case in Germany. Also, the lecturers do not avoid questions about homework and exams, but really try to help the students.
All in all, at the halfway point of my semester abroad, I am glad that I chose the National University. Especially if you also work as a student trainee, as I do, the asynchronous and digital study model gives you maximum freedom without sacrificing anything in terms of quality.
Student report by Armin R.