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No face-to-face interaction

Online learning can’t adequately replicate the relationship and human experience that develops in a face-to-face learning environment.

When an instructor is physically in front of you, you can read his or her body language, mannerisms, gestures, tone, volume and so on. These things help you to interpret and recall the information being presented.

You are also able to engage in natural, spontaneous conversations with classmates that can enrich the learning experience.

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Increased personal responsibility

You’re on your own! No one is going to remind you when an assignment is due. And it will be up to you when you log in to class message boards or do the assigned reading.

To juggle it all, you will need to be organized and manage time efficiently. Smart phone apps can be helpful tools to help keep you on track!

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Requires self-direction

As an online learner, you must be able and willing to self-direct your educational journey. This means taking full control.

You must determine your course load and the pace you’ll work at, what your educational goals are and how to handle setbacks. You will need to take the initiative to connect with advisors, professors and classmates to ensure you’re meeting expectations.

As an on-campus student, there are reminders and safeguards to help keep students on track, but as an online learner, you’ll need to be in charge of your own education.

Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes

Depending on where you live, family responsibilities, full-time or part-time jobs you hold, or what you are studying, you may be able to quickly decide if pursuing an online education is the right choice for you.
For some, it feels like the only option.
For others, it seems perfectly ideal.
And for some, like a pre-med student studying biochemistry with a heavy load of lab-intensive courses, online classes may be a complete mismatch.
If you do decide to enroll in an online college course, or at least look into the option at little deeper, the sections below will give you a taste of what to expect, what you need, and most importantly, how to succeed.

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Online Class Requirements

While you will be off the hook from being physically present in class, online classes do have requirements you should be aware of.

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Computer & Internet

While a computer may seem obvious for an online course, it’s important to note that this computer needs to be reliable and available. Fast internet will help to make accessing your coursework convenient as well.

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Devoted Time

Just because there is usually not a scheduled “meeting” time for online classes, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your coursework on your schedule. Most online courses are even more rigorous than traditional, which means it’s extra important that you consistently devote time.

Another important thing you need to succeed in online courses is a solid understanding of how these classes work.
For students that are accustomed to in-person, classroom setting, the structure of online courses can feel completely foreign.
Each on-line class will have a slightly different online structure, and so will programs in different fields.

While you won’t be spending face-to-face time with your instructor and peers, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be getting to know them. In fact, some students in online courses argue that they actually felt like they interacted more online than they did in traditional classes.
For the most part, this interaction comes in the form of discussions, responses, and journals.
You are held accountable for how much you interact and your understanding of the material being covered. It’s surprising to some that it is actually harder in an online course to breeze through the required hours.

Various technology is used by different programs and learning centers to ensure that online learning is valuable.
From how you submit your work to how you receive it, technology plays a huge role. Advances in technology, such as easy-to-access video cameras, are allowing colleges to offer more rigorous (and helpful) experiences for online students.
For the most part, the majority of prospective students have everything they need right now in order to take part in online learning. Special programs, especially those in design or science, may require you to purchase or download additional technology.
All of these requirements are clearly spelled out in the course syllabus and college handbook. So you will be equipped with everything you need from the get-go.

Most online programs deliver daily coursework in the form of modules. Each module can contain reading assignments, discussion boards, tests, projects, and essay assignments.
While you can typically see all of the coursework you will be doing at the start of the class, most programs keep modules closed until you arrive at that topic, which means you can’t submit work or participate in discussions in advance.

The majority of online programs offer their tests and exams in the form of multiple choice tests (either timed or not) or essays.

Because the environment cannot be controlled in most cases (although some programs will require you to take a test in a proctored and monitored location), the exams are designed around the idea that you will have access to your notes, the internet, and your textbook.

And while there are always opportunities to cheat, new technology is ensuring that even students in online courses are held accountable.

Online Classes: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

When looking at online courses, there aren’t too many differences when it comes to schedules: they are either synchronous or asynchronous.

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Synchronous online courses require you to meet at a scheduled time weekly and you participate in class live at that time. Very few online programs are synchronous, though there are some notable exceptions. For many students, this type of schedule is beneficial for several reasons. Not only are you given a structure for completing coursework, but there is more comprehensive and meaningful interaction between yourself and other students.

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The majority of online classes are asynchronous.

Asynchronous online courses allow you to login to your class to complete your assignments at a time that is most convenient for you. You can think of asynchronous learning as investing in a gym membership; the gym doesn’t require you to report a certain number of times nor does it request that you stop working at any point either.

There is more freedom in asynchronous courses, yes, but it’s also up to you to make sure you meet all of your class deadlines.

Which course format is best for you?

How you like to learn and your personality are huge factors to consider when determining which type of course, synchronous or asynchronous, is right for you. Before you enroll, consider which environment will best help you succeed.

  • Do you need a schedule created for you to adhere to in order to keep you motivated
  • Is real-time interaction with peers important to you?
  • Is your schedule constantly fluctuating, making it hard to know when you’ll have time to study?
  • Do you have a timeline for when you need to finish this course or program?

Tips for Success in Your Online Classes

If you choose to enroll in an online class, dedication and discipline are musts for success. Understanding how this course, program, or degree is going to help you in the future will give you the motivation you need to continue even when you feel like quitting.

So many students in online courses forget to use tutors, simply because the idea of “tutoring” brings to mind the picture of face-to-face interaction. However, online tutors are just as helpful, willing to read assignments before you submit them and even set up virtual sessions to answer your questions.

Class Participation

Like anything, there are always ways to cheat online, but, as the old saying goes, when you cheat, you are cheating yourself.

In online courses, that old adage couldn’t be more true. While you can only complete half the reading or stop responding to questions because you’ve met your “quota” of participation, know that participation is the key to success.

Whenever possible, ask questions, respond to comments, engage with your professor and peers, and, of course, stay on top of the work that is assigned to you.


If you are new to online courses, making the adjustment to this style of learning can be intimidating. But, knowing that you have support from your peers and instructor, as well as a big reason “why”, will help to keep you on the path to success.


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