In the digital age, more colleges and universities are offering online classes. Some even offer complete degrees through a virtual online learning environment. These offerings can be very convenient for adults returning to college, but there is a bit of a learning curve involved. Let’s uncover what to expect when signing up for an online class, and the keys to success.
What is Online Learning?
In a nutshell, online learning is a method of taking classes via the internet. Online courses can have many components: video lessons, online discussion boards, timed quizzes or tests, and more. All the content is delivered via the class website with the guidance of a college professor. The classes allow students to follow along at their own pace, meeting deadlines as required by the course.
Advantages to online learning.
Online classes can be ideal for those with multiple priorities. Your schedule as a busy adult can vary wildly, which makes attending a traditional face-to-face class difficult. Online classes have the unique advantage of being available 24 hours per day. Baby keeping you awake at all hours? Sneak on the class site and post your discussion board response. Impromptu meeting or late-night session at work? Push your submission back a couple of hours.
Set your own pace.
While online courses still have deadlines and due dates, overall, you are much more in control of your learning pace than you are in a face-to-face class. If you need extra time to review a chapter before taking the quiz, you will likely have that freedom. Having trouble understanding a concept? Discussion boards and links to online resources are built into many of the platforms.
Find your voice.
If you are an introvert or have some anxiety about speaking in public, class discussions can be intimidating and stressful. Your online course will likely have a written discussion component, which allows you to speak your mind and pose questions without feeling bashful. Many students find that the online forum provides them with a voice they’ve never had before. For adults returning to the classroom, this is especially true. Fellow classmates have no idea if you are a twenty-year-old or fifty-year-old student. All they see are your words, not your age.
Tips for Success in an Online Course
1. Schedule time wisely.
The flexibility of online classes is a major plus for non-traditional students returning to the classroom. That same flexibility can be troublesome though. To avoid missed deadlines, have a calendar or planner filled with due dates and project deadlines. At the start of each week, map out when you will devote time for the class, and stick to your schedule.
2. Expect technical difficulties but have a back-up plan.
Websites crashes and internet outages happen. Have a backup plan in case of technological emergency—local library or coffee shop perhaps? When you run into a major issue, be sure to communicate with your professor.
3. Advocate for yourself.
Online courses are not the place to be passive. If you have a question about something, post it to the class forum or email the professor. If you disagree with a grade you received, ask for feedback on how to improve.
“I’m not tech-savvy.”
Do you feel like you’re behind the curve when it comes to technology? You’d be surprised at how many people answer yes to that question. Don’t let technology intimidate you in your educational pursuits. Every college will have tech support to help you when you’re stuck. When in doubt? Google! You’ll likely find a video or discussion thread about your same problem. The digital age has some added challenges, but there are an equal number of solutions at your fingertips.
“I won’t have time.”
Flexibility is the key to online learning. Not everyone has a set schedule each week. With online learning, you are in charge of your schedule and can adjust as needed to varying work or family needs. Sick child? Called in to an extra shift? No problem—just plan your online class work at another time.
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