By: Student Author, Meghan Lupo
Online classes have become increasingly popular among college students, a recent study showed that nearly one-third of college courses are actually taken online. They offer an array of benefits, especially for individuals who have to balance school, work, or raising a family. This flexibility can be extremely helpful throughout the completion of your degree, but how do you know whether or not taking classes online is right for you?
As a student who has taken numerous classes online, with subjects ranging from sociology to statistics, let me provide you with the information and answers to many questions you may be having about the virtual classroom.
Balancing college courses and life
When I first started taking online classes I was a little apprehensive. Between school, work, being a student athlete, and maintaining some sort of social life, I was quickly convinced that this would be the right decision for me. As I progressed through my first course I realized this wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I actually started to prefer online classes over traditional ones. Four years later, with an Associate’s degree and having nearly completed my Bachelor’s degree, I’ve taken over twenty online classes. Some were harder than others, but I truly enjoyed the different experiences and knowledge I gained from each one.
You might be thinking, maybe you liked online classes… but there is absolutely no way I would even consider taking them. Let me stop you right there, because yes, online classes aren’t for everyone, but before you make up your mind let me outline what these classes entail and how impactful they can be on your college experience.
What to expect from online college courses
When talking with my peers about online classes, I’ve come to realize that there are two assumptions that just about everyone makes. One is that they are way too hard and students will say, “I procrastinate way too much, and would not be able to keep up on the work.” The second is “aren’t online classes easier?” So, to clarify both these questions let me start with procrastinating.
Whether you take classes online or in person, the same work is expected of you. The only difference is if you are face to face with your professor, listening to a lecture. Yes, this may be preferred by some, but at the end of the day you are responsible for making sure your homework is done. You are the one who has to take the time to study, complete projects and manage your time. The same applies to online classes, you wouldn’t not show up to your 8 am class, so why wouldn’t your login to your account online and complete your coursework and homework every week?
Secondly no, online classes aren’t easier. They are actually quite similar to traditional classes but they do offer many benefits. First flexibility, many people like taking these classes because you have the freedom to access your class at any time, you don’t have to drive to school, and you can go at your own pace. Now just because there are a few differences between taking your classes online instead of in a formal setting doesn’t mean that they will be a breeze. You’ll still have to put in the same amount of work, study, and make sure your assignments are turned in on time.
Time management is important!
One thing I want to stress to all students is that time management is essential to your success. Just like any other class, online classes require you to be motivated and dedicated to staying up to date on your assignments. Whether that is through your email, checking your course, or collaborating with other students. You must be proactive and willing to put in the work that is integral to completing your course. Although you may enjoy the flexibility of these courses and going at your own pace, understand that if you fall behind it’s hard to get caught up. Set aside certain days and times that you know you’ll be able to work on your classes and complete your assignments.
Online orientations are not optional
If this is your first online class, or your tenth make sure you get comfortable with your class format and the materials you will need. Usually a week before your classes start you’ll be able to access your course which will provide you with valuable information such as the schedule your instructor has created, the syllabus, as well as where you can find your homework and tests. Once you have become acquainted with the platform, utilize any other orientation materials that can aid in your efforts throughout the semester. If you still have questions do not hesitate to ask your professor, they will be there for you every step of the way!
Online classes don’t mean you won’t have projects
So, you may be wondering do online classes entail group projects? Yes! Just because your classes are online doesn’t mean that you won’t be assigned team projects. With advancements made in technology it has become more common for instructors to assign students group projects. Although it can be difficult at times collaborating with other students, it is possible and several platforms like Google Docs, Skype, and Video conferencing can aid in this process. If you haven’t ever used any of these tools try to get familiar with them because they can be helpful both for virtual students, as well as traditional ones.
Online Lectures and Presentations
With online courses and programs high in demand it’s imperative that schools keep up and use new advancements to give them an edge that will appeal to their students. One thing I really enjoyed was that several of my classes included face-to-face interactions with my professors. Oftentimes, I think people shy away from virtual classrooms because you aren’t sitting in front of an instructor, taking notes, with the ability to ask questions, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, a lot of instructors do their lectures virtually, which gives you the chance to ask questions and converse with them. Like I mentioned previously, platforms like Skype, Bluejeans and virtual conferencing are used. For one of my final projects I actually used Bluejeans and presented to my class and professor. It was such an awesome experience, that I think will be beneficial for my career. Technology has incredible benefits and it’s best to expose ourselves to these new tools that we will be expected to use in our jobs.
From personal experience, I can say that I love online classes and given my unique situation, they work for me. When I began college, I was a student athlete who practiced every day except Sunday, worked twenty hours a week, and went to class. It was extremely stressful at times, but I learned a lot from it. I learned that I was an individual who preferred reading my textbook, having a flexible class schedule, and the ability to access my class at any time of the day or night. Taking online classes alleviated so much stress from my life and had a positive impact on my grades. I felt like I learned more when taking these classes. I could utilize new tools that I had never had before in school like pausing lectures to take notes or working at my own pace. Not only that, I still had the ability to email my professor with questions. So, for those of you still debating whether or not to take online classes, do your research. Think about the type of student you are and how you learn best. Because although you are probably comfortable with taking traditional classes, you may be missing out on a great opportunity.
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Meghan Lupo is a senior currently enrolled at Northwood University where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Business administration with a major in Marketing. Throughout her college career she was hesitant about solidifying her decision to pursue business, but the decision became very easy after a few business classes that left a lasting impression on her. As a student-athlete, mentor, and someone who has experienced the trials and tribulations college entails she is ecstatic to be a part of our team and share her journey with others in order to help them grow, excel, and enjoy all that college has to offer.