Understanding the Setup of Online Courses
Online courses are becoming more popular for students. Many students will take online courses in the summer since they can do these from home. Some universities are using online formats for heavy enrollment general education courses. Other schools have adopted online formats for students who have difficulty scheduling in person classes.
It’s probably a safe bet that just about every college student will take one or more online classes in his/her college career. When you take an online course, you need to be careful of the following:
- Technology platform – what technology will you need to access the content
- Internet access – will you have reliable internet services where you will be when you take the course
- Synchronicity – will you need to be online at a specific time (synchronous) or can you access the content at a time of your choosing (non-synchronous). Most courses are non-synchronous.
- Test practices – How will tests be administered? Will you need to have a proctor? Will there be a limited time for tests?
- Assignments – What are the assignments? How will they be submitted? What is the policy on due dates? Most courses have assignments submitted via the online course server software. Also there is a serious penalty in most cases for late work.
- Class Participation – Most classes require some form of posting to questions asked by the teacher.
- Textbooks – In some cases, the online material is the textbook. In other cases, you will need a book like a regular course.
- Course Delivery – Some content will be delivered as power point slides, some will be videos, and some will be written content that resembles the voice of the professor.
- Course practices – Online courses may have very strict assignment completion requirements.
- Faculty contact – In most cases, your contact with your teacher will be electronic (via email)
One thing that is very different in online classes from regular classes is the discipline required. Since you don’t have a set class time, you’ll have to set your time for doing the work.
Online classes may seem to be less personal than regular classes, but this has not been the case. Your online instructor will get to know you very well through your participation. Online courses make it easier for shy students to contribute.
Typically online courses take more work than regular classes. In effect you have both the time to learn the material and then the time to apply what you learn. Your time allocation can also change. In face-to-face classes you have blocks of time when you are in class. In online classes, you can allocate your time to a class in small more flexible time periods. While the workload is often more, fitting in the work can be easier to do.
Topic suggested by Ria Hermann, an advisor at West Virginia University..