The rising popularity of online college courses creates new opportunities for completion and success. Unfortunately, more students who sign up for online courses also fail or wash out! Students and instructors alike benefit from clarifying the skills needed to succeed and the mental preparation needed to prime students for online success.
While the goal is to encourage enrollment--not discourage it--students must be prepared and personally responsible for their online experiences especially if they are fresh from high school or not yet used to the discipline and organizational skills college courses demand.
Ideally, the online courses of today are engaging, relevant, and organized with instructors who are truly present online and student-to-student interactions adding immense value. Online courses also demand a higher level of empathetic user experience design (UX), clear instructions, clear expectations, zero instructor "winging it," and superhuman anticipation of all possible roadblocks that diverse students might encounter!
Advantages of Online Courses
- Online courses allow additional schedule options for busy students.
Online means less time and money wasted commuting, sitting in traffic, adding to air pollution, searching for parking, paying for parking, etc.
- Online also means less exposure to diseases, epidemics, violence, and the downsides of social crowding.
- Online course scheduling may be more feasible if you work full-time or have other obligations.
Some online courses may allow you to work a week ahead, for example, if you have upcoming events or vacations.
- Well-designed online courses allow you to review materials--at any time--to gain full benefit.
Review and self-pacing can additionally benefit diverse student populations including students who require accessibility accommodations or ESL assistance.
- The online format encourages you to interact with your instructor and other students in writing and discussions even more than you might in a classroom lecture format.
- The online format provides opportunities to practice higher-level reading, writing, and technology skills.
Questions to Ask Yourself in Preparing for an Online Course
- Am I prepared to spend the same amount of time (or more) in an online course as I would in a traditional classroom format? Typically, colleges advise students to plan for 2-3 personal hours of homework time minimum for each credit hour during a week. For example, a 3 credit hour class may require approx. 6-9 hours each week for a typical student or possibly even more homework time.
- Am I aware that online classes are not easier or faster? For some students, online courses are significantly more difficult. Are the trade-offs worth it for you?
- Am I self-motivated and organized with completing my homework and scheduled deadlines even without continual guidance from an instructor?
- Am I willing to ask questions, persistently communicate, and ask for help in advance of due dates?
- Am I persistent with technology hassles, including reading directions and solving issues?
- Do I have continual access to a reliable computer and high-speed internet?
- Am I personally responsible for gaining the full value from course materials and finishing what I begin?
- I am prepared to focus my attention and gain meaning from written text or videos with or without additional explanation from an instructor?
- Am I prepared to complete college-level writing assignments and/or seek assistance from writing centers to bring my writing skills up to expectations?
- Am I aware of options to take courses for credit, non-credit, technical training, hybrid mixtures of online and classroom interaction, etc. with a clear understanding of financial repercussions in worst-case scenarios?