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Online Courses: What to Expect

by studyabroad

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Are you considering the possibility of continuing your education via online courses?  Do you know what to expect with these types of classes, or even more importantly, what will be expected of you?  Pursuing your education through university or college online courses naturally has many advantages, but before you commit to this type of education delivery, it’s important that you first understand what to expect, along with the various ways in which online courses will differ from the traditional classroom model.  In this article we will outline certain features of an online-based education to help you decide if this is the appropriate educational strategy for you.


Online Courses:  Things You Need to Know


As mentioned above, online courses can offer a number of advantages—no commuting, work at your own pace, etc.—but there are a number of prerequisites you must possess, and factors to be aware of before you jump head first into this type of education.  Some of these include:


Using Technology


Technology, for obvious reasons, plays an enormous role in online courses, and unless you are knowledgeable in, and comfortable with the various technologies that you will be required to utilize, your success in these types of programs will be severely compromised.  Here are just a few aspects of technology you may need to become familiar with:


  • Video Chat.  Many instructors will ask that you use video chat, such as Skype for instance, for “face-to-face” meetings.
  • Instant Messaging Programs
  • Online Forums
  • Online Class and University Bulletin Boards
  • Blogs
  • Email
  • Word processing, spreadsheet and interactive slide software
  • And more…


Upon enrolling in an online course it is imperative that you find out what types of technological mediums will be used to communicate, deliver instruction, turn in assignments and take exams.  Keep in mind, too, that with online courses there will be no professor to remind you of upcoming assignments and testing, so it is vital that you remain proactive and frequently consult all messages and online schedules.


Interacting with other Students


One of the consistent criticisms of online education has been the absence of student interaction—interaction which can enhance the learning experience—and as a result, many instructors have incorporated student interaction into their online programs.  This could mean developing cooperative projects in which you work together and communicate with other students using various technologies.


Motivation and Discipline


Those who tend to have success through online courses are people who are disciplined enough to work at their own pace and stay current with assignments.  Unlike traditional classroom-based education, where your level of participation in class is used to determine a percentage of your overall grade, your marks in online courses will be measured solely by the work you complete and the scores you receive on exams.  Therefore, those who are motivated enough to stay current with assignments have a much better chance at success.




The last consideration is also the most important:  ethics.  Without a professor watching over you as you take an exam or work on an assignment, the temptation to consult various study materials or textbooks may be great, but if these are forbidden, and it is somehow discovered that you are cheating, it could result in a failing grade or even university expulsion.  Taking online courses requires that you have a certain code of ethics to which you agree to adhere.


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