Is an Online Class Right for me?
Instructional Technology Council Says That:
- 60% of four-year private colleges and universities offer online classes.
- 91% of two-year colleges offer online courses.
Should I Take an Online Class?
So you want to stay at home in your jammies and earn college credits. I admire your drive. But seriously, everyone has a different reason for taking advantage of online learning. From stay-at-home parents, to busy professionals working 60 hours a week, to the socially awkward author of this hub.
Some of the benefits of taking you classes online are obvious. Not having to deal with traffic, parking, or using gas are at the top of most student's lists. But those shouldn't be your only deciding factors for opting into online learning.
In order to decide if taking classes online would be right for you, you have to do some serious self-analyzing to decide what's best for you.
Do You Have What it Takes?
- One of the biggest personal factors a student needs to consider is their level of self-control. Online classes may offer flexibility, but the lack of supervision may aid is allowing interruptions to your learning. You may start out strong and eager to learn, but once you get settled into your online class, you may be tempted to slack off a bit. If you can follow through with long-term tasks with little consideration to that to-do list or stack of bills near by, then online learning might be a good gig for you.
- Consider your surrounding: Is your room or home-office suitable for spending a prolonged period of time at your computer? If you are easily thrown off track by other websites or environmental distractions, you may want to consider setting up a more productive workstation or forgo online learning all together.
eLearning and You.
Znanja, an eLearning software company, reported that:
- In 2011 77% of American Corporations were using online learning to provide training for their employees. Chances are, you are one of those employees who have used e-learning, so you may already be familiar or comfortable with the idea.
- eLearning is the second most important training method within organizations, with companies increasingly moving towards blended learning and eLearning, rather than instructor led training sessions.
Do I need to be Tech Savvy for Online Learning?
- You don't have to be a computer geek to take an online class, but you do need to be computer literate in order to succeed.
- If you are reading this article, you're likely to be more than capable of handling an online class. It's been reported that more than 70% of community colleges currently offer an online student orientation for distance education classes. This way, you will be able to log on and see what the format is like before you make a final decision.
- Many schools offer a resource office for people who need help navigating the school's online portal. Colleges are prepared for people who have never taken an online class before and no matter how small the question, they are able to assist you.
- Most online classes require the use of additional internet or computer resources to supplement your course. You have to be prepared to venture outside of your school's intranet, but links and resources are often provided by your professor to serve as launching pads for you to work from.
- You can also start slow and take a single class online and the rest in-house. This will help acclimate you to your school's online environment. If you feel comfortable with your experience, then you can up your workload next semester.
Classroom Communication With Online Learning.
- Consider the lack of classroom discussion and face to face exchange of ideas with your classmates. It may be great not to have interactions with other members of your class, but you may be missing out on some valuable exchanges of ideas.
- While forums and discussion posts fill in for the lack of classmate interaction, you still won't get the full benefit of real-time communication. So if you're a person who values the immediate gratification of face-to-face brainstorming or group-work, discussions and forums for an online class just won't cut it for you.
- By the same token, however, you may choose a class in a subject you already know a lot about. If you're an American History buff, and most of your material is made up of lectures, you wouldn't be interacting with many other classmates anyway, so you have nothing to lose.
Teacher Communication With Online Learning.
- Lack of classroom communication isn't limited to just classmates, your professor will not be available in real-time either, but don't sweat it!
- Professors who teach classes online are easy to communicate via email, as they understand the implications of not being in a classroom setting and check their email throughout the day anyway.
- Most professors still have available office hours, as they still teach on-campus as well as online. If our professor is an adjunct, someone who is hired by a college to teach but isn't a full member of the faculty, they too probably teach on-campus and are willing to meet with you in person, if you make arrangements.
Tech Issues With Online Learning.
As convenient as it is, taking classes online can have some major downfalls. It's a good idea to have a back-up plan and to back-up your files regularly. How far are you willing to go to make sure you are not a victim of a tech blip? Here is a list of common risks students take when they sign up for an online class:
- Power outages
- Server problems
- Email problems
- Internet connection problems
- Computer crashes and lost data
- Lost. stolen, or physically damaged computers/digital devices
Most technology problems can be avoided by having a back-up plan by utilizing USB flash drives, external hard drives, back-up software, the library, and common sense and safety. Many professors realize and promote these alternative plans and don't accept excuses as easily as one might think. So be ready to put in a little more effort and forget the "Dog ate my computer" excuse.
Check Classes Before Enrolling.
If you already know that interactive assignments will be best for you, find out what the syllabus and course description looks like. If you see some teaching techniques you will enjoy, then go for it!
One of the drawbacks to online learning is the fact that you will be a very independent student. This means that you will be doing a lot of reading and typing. You will need to have the initiative to follow through on tasks, no matter how daunting.
If you don't already know your learning style, you should find out before signing up for an online course if it would be compatible with the way your learn.
Teachers all approach online classes different, so it wouldn't hurt to talk with faculty about their style.
The Old College Try.
Only you will know what you can handle when it comes to learning online. If you have done the necessary research and feel that you can make a go at it, then give it a try! You can always drop the course if you find that class isn't right for you - just be aware of your credit hours with regards to financial aid.