How Do Online Colleges Work?

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

Today, students don’t have to be stuck in a classroom in order to earn a degree. Thanks to the internet, students can learn from anywhere, at times that work for their schedule. While the setup is different, you may be surprised to learn that distance learning shares some similarities with the traditional learning model. Find out how online colleges work, plus some benefits of enrolling in online courses, below.

The Virtual Classroom

Online courses can vary in how they are set up, depending on the degree you’re earning, the subject material and the professor’s personal way of teaching. Typically, you can expect to learn through a portal or platform where you can view the professor’s lesson plans and teaching materials. Some methods professors use to help guide learning include class forums or discussion boards, assigned readings, posted videos and audio clips.

Instead of learning in a physical location sitting next to your peers, you can simply log on from anywhere – at any time – and get access to the materials you need for that week’s lessons. Most online professors allow you to work on assignments at times that are convenient to you, as long as you submit your final assignments and tests before their predetermined deadlines.

The Workload

Some students think that online courses are easier than learning in a classroom. Not always. Online classes require a bit more personal motivation to succeed. You have to hold yourself accountable for logging on when necessary, learning the material in a reasonable time frame and completing all your assignments before they’re due.

Just because your courses are online doesn’t mean they’ll be faster, either. Some online courses require anywhere from six to fourteen hours of work a week, depending on the subject and class level. Since you aren’t required to meet in a classroom, the professor may expect you to be actively online at multiple points throughout the week to ensure you’re able to stay on top of all your assignments.

The Communication

The communication requirements are a bit different for online colleges. Speaking to professors is mainly done through emails instead of during class or office hours. Some online professors will have virtual meeting hours to assist you with your studies. If the professors also work on a college campus, you may be able to meet with them in person if you have questions or concerns.

Online college classes also have different requirements for communicating with your peers. Group projects may be less likely. Instead, discussion boards are actively used to speak about the subject matter and comment on other students’ posts. There may be prompts to guide your thoughtful discussion, or you may be asked to come up with your own topics. Other ways you may participate in conversations or assignments with your online peers include through instant messages, emails, and audio or video conferences.

The Supplies

Before you go back to school shopping, keep in mind that the supplies you’ll need to succeed will be a bit different than what you’d take to a lecture. Some basic supplies you’ll need for an online class includes a computer or laptop with a charger, a reliable internet connection and textbooks. If you prefer taking notes on your computer, you may not need to carry notebooks and pens. Depending on the class, you may need extra supplies or computer programs. Check the syllabus or talk to your professor to determine if you’ll need any special materials before enrolling in the course.

The Support

Just like a college campus, online colleges still offer tools and resources to help you while you earn your degree. The portal or platform you log into to access your classes should also have a link to some services. These tools may include technical support, tutoring, writing workshops, academic advisors, student advisors, online libraries, virtual bookstores, upcoming class listings and more.

The Benefits of Online Colleges

Online courses have their perks. For one, you can do your homework at any time, no matter how hectic your daily schedule is. You can also work at your own pace. If you know certain classes or subjects may take you a bit longer to fully learn and understand, enrolling in an online version of the class can help. The flexibility that online courses have to offer can be extremely beneficial for students who may not have the time to fit standard classes into their busy schedules, or for those who simply want a bit more freedom to learn on their own time.

If you think online college can benefit you, search below to find the perfect course. We’ve also compiled a list of the best online colleges which includes accredited, affordable online colleges across the nation. From certificates to associate degrees to doctorate degrees, our list includes options for every level and subject.

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