In 2020, online education moved from an atypical way of learning to an everyday norm. 97% of college students surveyed by EdcationData.org indicated they had switched to online instruction. By April of that year, 98% of schools reported offering fully online learning options.
What was once a novelty or a solution for adult learners quickly turned into something most students will utilize during the course of their college careers. Online education helps students overcome a number of barriers to learning inherent in traditional classroom-based educations. With online learning environments, today’s students can work around work schedules or take courses that would have conflicted via an in-person course schedule to allow for on-time graduation.
While it is currently unclear whether or not this high percentage of online learning options will continue—or if more students will return to in-person learning experiences in the future—what is clear is that online learning will remain an option.
If you decide to embrace the flexibility of online learning environments, you need to understand what you are getting into. While the education available online is a high-quality one, online education is not the same as in-person instruction. Taking online classes is a flexible, convenient option for today’s college student, but there are a few things you should know before you sign up for your first online education experience.
Tips for Taking Online Classes
Taking an online class is not going to mirror the experience of an in-person course. The quality of the education is consistent between online and in-person, but the method of delivery is different. This doesn’t mean you will get a less valid education. However, you need to be aware of the differences so you can prepare properly for your online learning experience. Here are some tidbits of advice for taking online classes that will make the process ahead a little easier for you.
1. Online Classes Are Just as Challenging as In-Person Classes
Online education is not a new phenomenon. Colleges started dabbling in the idea of remote learning decades ago. Post University has been doing online education for over 20 years and has perfected the experience. This means that you will not sacrifice the quality or rigor of your education if you choose to study online. In fact, for some students and programs, taking online classes creates a more rigorous learning environment.
For example, professors realize that online tests may allow students to do their work and take exams open book. In fact, because they cannot police their students, many professors allow open book testing in online environments, but they make the questions more in-depth. This means you will have to more thoroughly understand the material in order to answer the question, and simply looking up the answer online or in your book won’t suffice.
Bottom line: If you are considering online learning because you think it will be an easier education, you need to re-examine your assumptions.
2. Time-Management Skills Are Essential
One of the most helpful tips for online classes is creating and sticking to a schedule. In order to succeed in online learning, you must be able to manage your time well. Many online programs offer a more self-directed learning experience than in-classroom experiences.
When you study online, you won’t have instructors or classmates that you see personally day to day to hold you accountable to get your work done. You may not even have specific times that you have to log on to view lectures or interact with your classmates. You will need to manage your time to ensure that you accomplish everything required of the class—including watching all online courses and participating in all group discussions—before the end of the semester.
When you study online, you may find yourself tempted to procrastinate. Putting off studying to the last second or working on projects the day before they are due can spell disaster for your online learning process. To make your education work, you need to create a study and homework schedule, and then follow it carefully.
3. Accountability Is Your Responsibility
When you meet in-person for your college courses, there is a measure of accountability already worked into the program. Seeing your professors and classmates daily often leads to accountability for homework, tests, and projects. Your instructors might remind you about an upcoming paper on your way out the door, or your classmates may discuss a research project while you sit waiting for class to start.
When you take your education online, this built-in accountability disappears. While most online professors will send reminders, those are easy to overlook and may not happen every time you log in for your courses.
How can you hold yourself accountable to get your work done? One practical solution to this problem is using a planner or calendar to record due dates. Once you have all of your projects recorded, set your own due dates along the way for small parts of each project. For instance, if you have a paper due at the end of the semester, require yourself to have an outline by midterm and a rough draft between midterm and the end of the semester. Once you have these deadlines for smaller tasks on your calendar, stick to them carefully. You will be able to finish everything on time, even without the daily accountability in the classroom.
4. Be Comfortable with Technology and Online Communication
In order to excel in online learning, you must be able to use technology effectively. Every aspect of your classes, from lectures to class discussions to submitting projects, is going to involve technology. Make sure you know how to save and upload files, access online learning elements, and how to use basic word processing and spreadsheet programs. If you need additional tech education, consider getting this before signing up for an online class. You’re going to need it.
In addition, you must be adept at online communication. Email and chat rooms are the most common forms of communication in the online learning world. Instructors also often set up forums where they can interact with students and students can interact with each other in a secure online environment. Make sure you can clearly communicate with instructors and classmates using these formats.
When communicating, avoid the trap of being too casual. The online world can make you feel like you’re simply texting a friend. Remember, this is a professional learning environment, so use proper spelling and good grammar, not emojis, when communicating in online forums, chat rooms, and emails.
5. Take a Proactive Approach to Communication
Finally, if you want to make the most of your online learning, you need to contact your instructors and classmates. Sometimes, you will need to initiate this contact. Just like you would shake hands across the table in the classroom and introduce yourself to a classmate, be willing to send the first chat message or email to your online classmates. Try to find a few classmates that are willing to correspond with you for the duration of the class and reach out to them when you have questions on homework, need clarification on instructor lectures, or simply want to chat about what you’re learning in class.
Similarly, you’re going to need to contact your instructors from time to time, and you may not have the luxury of dropping by during their office hours. At the start of your class, find out how your instructor prefers to be reached if you have a need. This may be email, online chat, or specific times when they will be on a forum or chat group. Then, early in the semester, reach out using that chosen method and introduce yourself. Express how excited you are about online learning. If you have any questions, ask them. Throughout the course, check in with your professor. By keeping the line of communication open, you will be able to get help when you need it.
Taking online classes in college is helping more and more professionals further their training, even while continuing to work full-time. Many students who aren’t yet in their careers are also taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience of online education, which can put a more rigorous education at their fingertips even if they don’t want to leave home.
By embracing this new technology, you can get a high-quality education, even without setting foot in the classroom. Post University has a number of online degree and certificate options that you can consider as you move forward with your training. Talk to our admissions counselors today to learn more about your options.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!