How Do Online Classes Work?

As one education expert once said, “Anybody who plans to have an online education must be self-directed!”  Even though both online classes and face-to-face classes both have the same purpose, which is to teach students, they are very different from one another.  In this post, I’ll discuss the differences between online courses and traditional in-class courses.

But, before we dive in, here’s a little background on online classes.  Taking classes online is a new tool that has evolved out of growth of computer technology.  It tends to appeal to people who may not be able to attend a traditional college or university, but still want to further their education.

Below are the top 6 things that you should keep in mind before you decide to pursue an online education:

Communication – In an online classroom setting, it is likely that you will be communicating with your professor and classmates in written text – e-mails, chat rooms, or newsgroups.  Except for the occasional recorded video or audio tape, the majority of your lectures and assignments are written down, instead of spoken.  For some students, this can be intimidating.

Time Management – It is important that you are able to manage your personal time well in an online course.  You must be disciplined enough to make time to study, discuss assignments over the internet with your classmates or professor, and attend class (or view the lecture).  Time management also includes making time for family, friends, and other relationships.  You must also let others know that you are in school.  Since you are not attending a traditional college or university, those around you may not know; support from your family and friends is necessary in order to stay motivated.

Deadlines – You are responsible for meeting deadlines, period.  Since online classes are not as structured as traditional classes, the lack of face-to-face time with instructors and classmates can cause some students to get lazy and forget deadlines.  Be sure to get you a planner, so that you can keep track of when assignments are due.

Homework & Exams – Just because online classes are usually more flexible than traditional courses, does not mean that you don’t have to put forth any effort.  In fact, sometimes online classes can be even more accelerated than those classes at an on-campus school.  Therefore, as mentioned above, you cannot afford to slack up.  The accelerated pace of online classes can sometimes overwhelm the unprepared student.

Support System – As mentioned under the “Time Management” section, the support of your family and friends is critical.  You will need a strong support system in order to complete your degree.  Also, the support of your employer is very important.  Be sure to let your employer know that you are in school and work with him or her to adjust your work schedule accordingly.  You will want to let him or her know (in advance) when you need time off to study for exams or complete homework assignments.

Computer – If you plan to take online classes, you will need a personal computer, period.  This is the MOST important item you’ll need.  You will also need to make sure that your internet connection is fast enough to do online research and log-in to class lectures, etc.  Some technical issues are to be expected, but you should have a somewhat reliable internet service provider.  You simply cannot afford to lose your internet connection when you’re emailing your homework assignments or chatting online with your professor.

Overall, these are some of the most important things that you should consider before taking online courses.  If you read these 6 steps and adequately prepare, then you should be successful.  Good luck!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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