Taking a class online can be a time saver, perfect for the student who is already busy and who doesn’t have a lot of schedule flexibility. Not only does it save a trip to campus, it also allows you to work and learn from the comfort of your own home. With the benefits, though, come a few challenges so we present you with some helpful tips if you’re considering taking a course online.
Self-Motivation: It’s important to realize that when you take an online class, you forfeit some of the familiar tangibles that come with taking a class in the flesh. For instance, you won’t have a teacher or professor reminding you when assignments are due or answering questions about the ins and outs of papers or exams. Thus, you really need to ask yourself if you’re able to be on the ball about when assignments are due and about doing readings yourself without a teacher taking you through the material slide by slide. Even if you’re a little wary about it, taking an online course can really help you to hone your organizational skills as well as your ability to meet deadlines and to work and study as a self-starter. Online courses take away the “training wheels” and put you in the driver’s seat.
Utilize Technology: So, you can’t go up to the teacher after class and ask a question, but you certainly can use technology to fully engage in the course. Working with classmates through the school’s online platform, texting, using facetime, etc. can simulate the experience of group work and foster class cohesion even though you’re not physically in the room. Furthermore, teachers of online courses expect students to engage and ask questions, so don’t hesitate to email them with feedback and questions about the class material and to use the online platform as a way to engage remotely.
Be Realistic: It might be easy to think an online course will be nothing more than checking the class’ website once a week, but the truth is that it will require just as much work and attention as would a traditional class. So, don’t assume this is a quick three credits that you can do in your sleep; make sure you have the time and energy to devote to the course, as it is simply a virtual version of a regular class. It’s also important to consider what type of learner you are: some people work best in a hands-on environment, and if that’s you, maybe online learning isn’t your best option. Again, being realistic and considering your own unique situation should be part of your decision about whether or not to take a course online. As with everything in education, Shakespeare said it best: “to thine own self be true.”
Keep it Real: Look at an online class the same as you’d look at a “brick and mortar” class. Inject the same enthusiasm, work ethic, and accountability into it. Twenty years ago, you had to get up and physically go to class. Today, just because you can take a course in your pajamas doesn’t mean it’s any less real. It’s just another way to learn in an amazing academic world.
Online learning is a great way to supplement an already rigorous course load. However, with its many benefits come some important tips: being on top of assignments without expecting constant reminders, a willingness to engage with technology, and a realistic approach to your own learning style are all vital in making the most of an online class.
Written by Phil Lane
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