5 Important Things to Know Before You Take an Online Class

5 Things to know before you take an online classOnline learning is more popular than ever. According to the Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report of 2017, the number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2015 now tops six million, about 30% of all enrollments. Experts anticipate that figure to rise in coming years, as more and more working students choose convenience over in-person classes. If you’re considering making the move to a virtual education, make the most of it with these tips for online classes:

1. Online Classes are Just as Challenging as In-Person Classes

Some people mistakenly regard online coursework as the easy way out. In reality, virtual coursework is just as challenging, if not more so. Open-book tests may grant students the ability to search for answers online, but knowing this, professors often develop more in-depth questions, forcing students to demonstrate their conceptual knowledge rather than parrot information back.

2. Technological Understanding is Essential

Online platforms provide a multitude of exciting learning opportunities, but students without at least a basic understanding of necessary technology will constantly wonder: How do online classes work? It’s important to gain familiarity with all aspects of an online platform well before exams or project deadlines loom.

3. Procrastination is Your Worst Enemy

Procrastination should be avoided at all costs in any type of learning scenario, but something about online learning can make students especially likely to save studying for the last possible second. Success means drawing up a study schedule and sticking to it. Typically, online and in-person classes require about the same amount of studying time, but online students must also schedule time to watch videos or absorb other material that may take the place of traditional lectures.

Traditional students receive regular due date reminders from professors, but online reminders can be easier to ignore. Record all due dates in your planner or calendar. Break large projects into smaller chunks, complete with your own mini-due dates.

4. Writing Skills may be More Important than in Other Classes

Online classes tend to be paper-heavy; written work allows students to demonstrate their mastery of class material, even if they’re not able to discuss it directly with the professor. A badly-written paper can call your knowledge into question, and could invalidate the long hours you’ve spent reading assigned material.

Writing skills are also critical for success in online discussions. Most online courses feature discussion boards, where students are required to share their thoughts with one another. Students might tend to take these online discussions for granted, posting sloppy responses while forgetting that these constitute a significant portion of their grade. Treat forum posts as you would any other element of your coursework; a detailed, well-written response will reflect positively on you as a student — and it could cement your understanding of critical topics.

5. Contact with your Professor is Critical

Traditional students enjoy the convenience of office hours; if they show up at the right time, they can receive one-on-one assistance from their professor. This type of attention may not be available for online students, but close contact with the instructor could still spell the difference between online success and disappointing grades.

Learn your professors’ preferred method of contact, and then reach out to professors early in the semester; introduce yourself and share how excited you are for this online learning opportunity. If necessary, ask the instructor, “How does online learning work?” Check in occasionally throughout the semester, and don’t hesitate to share if you’re struggling with a particular topic. Many professors maintain virtual office hours, when they live chat or even Skype with students who require prompt assistance.

In today’s virtual world, online classes make it easier for those with full-time jobs to continue working towards their degree. Commit fully to your online classes, and you can gain valuable knowledge on your own time.

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