More colleges and universities are offering online courses to meet the changing needs of higher education students today. With a low unemployment rate suggesting more people are working than before, it can be difficult to make time for campus coursework that competes with other leisure activities.
However, online learning is not for everyone. Technology-based education requires a certain skill set and self-discipline for students to be successful. Here are seven things to think about before enrolling in an online class.

Flexible Scheduling

Although online courses are offered during a regular semester or session, just like regular classroom courses, there are often no set meeting times to read or complete assignments. Typically, there are due-dates that must be met, along with a course completion date. How and when to meet those deadlines is up to the student, for the most part. Some courses include video conference meetings or lectures, although these are sometimes recorded for access at a later time, especially if students are registered in varying time zones. So, while you have the freedom to do most of the coursework whenever you choose within the scheduled parameters, it is up to you to ensure that assignments are submitted on time. These courses are more practical and there’s nothing you can’t learn online—even medical courses are available in this format and allow you to earn your ACLS or PALS certification quickly.

Virtual Instructors

Some online course instructors provide campus office hours for students who live within proximity of the location. Other instructors do not, because they feel it would not be fair to online students who cannot get to campus due to living further away, perhaps another state or even another country. Most instructor contact will take place via email and video conferencing. Some also offer telephone conferences and text messaging. You will need to decide if face-to-face meetings with your instructor are essential or not. However, many technology education experts believe that online instructors are even more hands-on and accessible than their campus counterparts. An online teaching and learning environment puts the instructor on the spot to answer questions, whereas email messages can be thoughtfully considered before responding. The National Survey of Student Engagement found that online learning produces a high level of student progress and satisfaction. Much depends on the individual student’s personality and preferences in learning style.

Potentially Cheap or Free Course Materials

Many online courses heavily depend on instructor lectures, interactive activities, and open source learning materials. This often translates into cheap or sometimes free textbooks or resources, thus substantially reducing course costs. However, some students prefer physical textbooks they can use at home to study coursework away from the computer. But they can usually buy supplies like notebooks, folders, and printer cartridges cheaper on their own than at the campus supply store.

Virtual Peer Interaction

Peer learning can be a strong component of a successful academic experience. Online courses make use of this tool by creating activities that enable students to work collaboratively on various assignments. Classmates also may peer review each other’s work and participate in discussion boards to share ideas and debate topics. However, some students prefer interacting with peers in a classroom setting. Again, this depends on each student’s interests in meeting other students face-to-face or working independently at home utilizing virtual interaction with peers. One of the positives is getting to meet classmates virtually who come from other regions or parts of the world, which can be very interesting in online activities.

Personal Learning Environment

Online students can typically work on their assignments at any time of the day or night. Whatever time suits their schedule can be designated for online activities. For many students, this is convenient and liberating, as they can engage in an online discussion while on a break at their job, for example, and return to the discussion after work. Other students with busy schedules, however, may struggle to find time between their other responsibilities to sit down at the computer and do coursework. Anyone can make a schedule for themselves to follow in order to meet course requirements and complete assignments on time if they are willing to do so. Some are more motivated by dressing like a student and meeting classmates on campus than by sitting down at home with a laptop while watching favourite television shows.

Time Saver Options

The ability to work on course assignments on a personal commitment rather than a campus schedule means that students can save driving time. They also may be able to avoid taking time for snacks or meals while on campus. A time that would be otherwise needed to shop for textbooks and study at the library can be avoided in lieu of working at home with time set aside for the purpose. Casual conversations in the corridors can eat up valuable minutes if you are in a hurry, although someone who enjoys informal social interaction may enjoy time spent getting to know others instead of working home alone.

Reduced Costs

In addition to saving time, online courses may cost less than classroom courses. The tuition is likely the same or similar, but auxiliary costs like the aforementioned textbooks may be far less for an online student. A campus parking pass will not be needed, for one thing. Driving time and fuel can be omitted from the budget. A student wardrobe or even casual clothing can be replaced by pyjamas or lounge wear around the house when doing coursework. Snacks, bookstore supplies, and campus sportswear are usually unnecessary when taking online courses at home.
Enrolling in an online course offers an exciting opportunity to earn an education on your terms. Comfort and convenience are the hallmarks of computer-based instruction. As more schools offer Adapt Education Courses to nontraditional students, enrollment may increase, and course completion is likely to be more effective. If you are thinking about taking an online course, you might want to discuss it further with an online instructor or students who have completed online coursework. If you find that you interested in trying this approach to coursework, enroll in an online class that can help to further your education on your terms.

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