How Do Online Courses Work?

December 12, 2017
Posted in Student Tips
December 12, 2017 ACS

At some point during your academic career, you will encounter the opportunity to take online courses. This situation is more likely to occur in college, but high school students are sometimes offered this option, too.

Some students find online learning to be more convenient than traditional classes, and naturally excel in this type of learning. Others are attracted to the flexibility of internet-based courses, but find themselves unprepared for a class that feels so different from anything else they’ve experienced. To prepare yourself for how online classes work, it might help to become familiar with these types of assignments.

Discussion boards. Your instructor might ask you to participate in a discussion board. Some will even grade you on your participation in this area of the class.

Journals or blogs. You might be asked to record your reflections on readings, either privately (journaling) or publicly (via a blog that other students can access).

Wikis. Used primarily for group assignments, wikis allow students to share a document in which they ask and answer questions, document their experiences, or discuss the course material.

Read (or watch), and respond. You’ve probably encountered this type of assignment in traditional classrooms already. You will be asked to read material, or watch a video, and then submit a written response.

Research papers. These assignments are pretty much identical to the research papers to which you’re already accustomed.

Exams. Yes, exams can be a part of online classes! Your exam might be proctored, meaning you make an appointment to take the exam at an approved location. Or, the test might be web-based, and monitored by video. Some exams might be “open book”, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’ll be much easier.

Case-based assignments. You might be asked to participate in a research setting, depending upon the topic of the class.

Self-paced adaptive assignments. This type of learning is growing in popularity. Essentially, you watch short lectures, and then answer questions based on what you’ve just learned. Following lectures focus on the areas in which you need further help, as indicated by how you performed on previous quizzes. These classes move at a more personalized pace.

These are just some of the ways that online classes can look different from traditional classroom learning. Before enrolling in an online class, feel free to contact the instructor or department, and ask questions. Taking the time to ensure that a course is a good fit for you, before signing up for it, can reduce frustration throughout the semester.


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