Are Online Courses Right For You?

Are Online Courses Right For You?

What to expect from an online course

The reasons for taking an online college course will vary. You might opt for an online course because it better fits your hectic schedule. It might be your last option when other classes are full or if you need to retake a class. When it comes to taking an online class for the first time, there may be a lot of uncertainty about the workload and schedule. Or you may not understand how it will differ from other courses.

Instead of worrying, prepare yourself for your first online course with these tips:

Set up a space where you can concentrate.

You will not have to physically be in a classroom, and you won’t be surrounded by your peers as you are when taught by a professor in person. Instead, you are going to be learning everything through a computer screen.

One thing you can do to better prepare yourself mentally is to get yourself in a “classroom setting” in the sense that you are in a quiet environment that enables you to focus. Don’t sit in front of the television with your laptop to watch lectures or tap away at your phone.

Choose a space where you know you can watch lectures and do assignments without any distractions — a library, a study room, or a desk in your room.

Expect to encounter different types of lectures.

Online courses will offer differing types of lectures. Some may just be uploaded PowerPoint presentations made by a professor. There may be recorded voice to go along with the PowerPoint presentations or even a video of a recorded lecture of the actual professor teaching.

You may find it harder to follow along with a recorded lecture, so it is important to prepare yourself mentally for each lecture by taking away distractions (background noise, phones nearby). If you find yourself struggling to pay attention, force yourself to take notes as you watch. This will allow you to form your own study material while digesting the information being taught and putting it into your own words for later use.

Make time for your online course(s).

Online courses may be more flexible than your typical class, but that can make it easier for you to fall behind. Put time aside just as you would for a regular class. Plan out time to watch lectures and take notes, time to study notes, and time to finish any assignments. By setting aside time, you are less likely to forget about small assignments.

Try to steadily go through lectures instead of "binge-watching" them. That way, you won’t become overwhelmed with a lot of information.

Understand that online courses are not necessarily “easy.” 

Regardless of your initial reason for taking a class online, you may think it is going to be easier than a typical class. Yes, the class will be more flexible, and you can “go to class” in pajamas. But the material should not be underestimated. After all, the course is going to be listed on your transcript and may affect the rest of your studies.

Make sure you do the work for class assignments and study for exams. Don't assume that you will be able to refer to your notes or other study materials during exams. While no one will be in the room with you physically when you take an exam, you will likely be monitored just as strictly than you would be for a regular course.

During an online exam, you may be connected to an online exam proctor, who will monitor your background and your computer monitor.

You also need to be more aware of your study habits and “classroom behavior.” You will have to force yourself to keep to a schedule and do your assignments on time.   

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Kaitlin Hurtado is a student at University of California Irvine. Excerpted from, Online Marketplace for College Life.   

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