Are Online Classes For You?

When students hear about online classes, they think, “Yes! An easy course where I don’t even have to go to class, I get to use my notes and book on the tests, and I get to work on my own time. What could be better?”

Think again.

While most of the above are true about online classes, they are commonly misunderstood as “blow-off” classes.

The truth is, online classes are often more difficult classes for students because of their nature. With online courses students are expected to be masters of time management, self-disciplined and motivated, and let’s be honest, these qualities are not present in every college student.

Online classes are also found in the form of “hybrid” classes. Hybrids are courses where all of the material—lectures, exams, and demonstrations, are in an online forum, but students are also given one class session a week to go over questions they may have.

These recitation periods are often taught by teaching assistants, or TAs and are not like a formal college lecture, but are frequently used as question and answer sessions to digest the online material that was given.

While these recitations have the potential to be very beneficial, they are only helpful if the student has completed the required work in a timely fashion or at least familiarized themselves with the topics at hand.

I am currently taking a philosophy class as a hybrid called “Logic and Reasoning”. I’ll admit, having never taken an online or hybrid class before, my first thoughts were that it would be easy and that since I’ve always been self-disciplined it would be a piece of cake.

However, I have found the class rather challenging, and this is coming from someone who has always been told she has good study habits and a strong work ethic.

Which brings me to my next point.

Online classes are not for everyone!

There are various learning styles, and not all of them are compatible with the demands of an online class where you are literally expected to teach yourself the material.

There are visual learners, audio learners and hands-on learners. Typically, the first two types are well suited to meet the needs of an online or hybrid course.

For all of you hands-on learners like me, online classes aren’t such smooth sailing.

I have always been the type of person who needed to see a demonstration or have needed a teacher to walk me through problems step by step. Unfortunately, online classes do not offer these services.

My hybrid class has been a bit more challenging than I thought it would be because it takes a certain type of person to be able to handle them successfully. I have always had a strong work ethic and have been able to manage my time well, so in some ways I am very well suited for an online class, but don’t let the “serious student effect” coax you into a situation you can’t handle.

Simply being disciplined about actually taking time out to go through lectures, read the book, take notes and look over practice tests or demonstrations is not necessarily the recipe for an automatic “A” in the course.

Online classes are commonly made more difficult purposely or are offered on more challenging subjects to compensate for the relaxed nature of the class structure. So if you are looking for an easy, “blow-off” class to fill a few extra credits, you may want to rethink your strategy before you are in over your head.

Now at the risk of making online/hybrid classes sound impossible to complete successfully, let me offer you three important strategies to survive your online courses.

1.  Be hyper-organized when taking notes. Maybe in class you just type or scribble out the basics of the lecture, but this won’t cut it for an online class and here’s why: online classes give you freedom to use your notes and book on assignments and exams, but this is only helpful if you know exactly where to look in your notes for the information you need. Try making headers for different topics, highlighting definitions and key words and cross-referencing information in your notes to their location in the textbook (if you have one.) Tests in online classes are usually given online and are usually timed to prevent students from cheating, so having organized notes will come in handy.

2. Take advantage of office hours. All professors have office hours, or times allotted for students to visit them to get help with material and get their questions answered. If the material is too difficult for you to learn on your own, seek out your professor for assistance. Just because you may not have required class hours to attend doesn’t mean you can’t spend extra time to fully grasp the material.

3. Form study groups. Most students struggle more with online classes than other classes for various reasons, but since you are all in the same boat you can use each other for support. I recommend forming a Facebook group or some other kind of forum that makes it easy for you and your classmates to communicate and help each other with material or decide when and where to meet to study material together.

Online classes are doable; it just takes the right person, but more importantly, the right frame of mind.

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Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet is a sophomore at Michigan State University, studying journalism and philosophy of law. Aside from reporting, Madeline enjoys tae kwon do, reading, writing, researching and traveling, and can be considered a music enthusiast. Madeline currently works as an intern for, and is a banquet server at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. Perfecting the storytelling side of reporting is something she looks forward to in her future career as a journalist.
Madeline Fetchiet

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