Once upon a time, education meant going to class, carrying a stack of books with you from one classroom to another and face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers. Then the internet happened and slowly but surely online learning entered our lives. Online education might not be the norm, but it can’t be denied that it has more supporters than ever.
Nowadays, a growing number of people choose to take online courses for various reasons. They’re a great alternative for students with busy schedules who have to divide their time between work, family and school, people who want to advance in their careers, those who want to continue and finish their studies after a long hiatus and many others.
It’s easy to see why online learning is gaining ground. You can study at your own pace, adjust the learning schedule to fit your needs, learn from any location you want and maybe even save some money in the process. But are online classes a good option for you? You shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon just because everybody else is doing it. You must do it for the right reasons. So, before enrolling in an online class, it’s essential to learn the basics of online learning and know what to expect. Here are 6 important aspects you should consider to help you make an informed decision.
Online classes are not for cutting corners
Some people have this misconception that online classes mean taking the short route to finishing studies and obtaining a degree. The reality is that online classes are neither easier, nor harder than traditional classes when it comes to the effort you have to invest or the amount of study material you have to go through. The course content is the same, the only thing that changes is the delivery method. You still have assignments, projects, exams, grades and so on, just like you would if you were attending a regular course. Even if you enjoy more flexibility and you’re not confined to a classroom, it doesn’t mean you’ll have it any easier. In fact, this advantage can turn into a drawback if you are not self-motivated and you don’t know how to organize your time effectively.
Good time management is of the essence
Speaking of time, one major predictor of educational success in online learning is represented by good-time management. If you’re able to plan your time effectively, stay on track and keep up with your assignments, you have more chances at thriving as an online student. It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re the one who decides when and where to study. You hold the reins, but you also hold the responsibility to organize yourself and find the formula that works best for you. That means you’ll have to learn to avoid distractions, create a well-thought schedule and stick to it no matter what. You must also learn how to evaluate correctly the amount of time needed to study or to complete a project. Otherwise all the freedom online classes provide will work against you.
Not all courses are created equal
This might seem obvious, but not all online courses are the same. There’s no single pattern that all online courses follow. Just because you know someone who attended an online class and told you a few things about it, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience. Online courses differ from institution to institution, so it’s important to know what type of online course to choose based on your specific needs. If you want to obtain an online degree, you must search for institutions that offer such programs and do a thorough research before deciding. If you just want to improve your study performance at certain subjects, you might want to look for a tuition program to meet your requirements.
Interactions are still a part of the process
You might think that attending online classes means it will be just you, standing in front of a computer, without interacting with anyone. While online classes cannot replicate the same level of connection and engagement that you can experience in a traditional class, interactions have not been phased out. On the contrary, online classes become more and more interactive as teachers and students have more and more EdTech tools at their disposal that make it easier to stay connected with each other and collaborate. You’ll probably have to participate in group projects and work closely with your peers for different assignments, so you won’t be a lone wolf, completely disconnected from other students and teachers. Besides, online courses can be combined with on campus classes so the engagement levels differ depending on the type of program you choose.
You have to get your gear in check
Let’s not forget about the technical aspects involved in online classes. You might not have to travel from one place to another, but you have to make sure the devices you use to access the online class are reliable and that you have good internet connection. If you’re no tech savvy, you might want to get some help with setting everything up. Similarly, the educational institution should have a good operational system to ensure the smooth running of the courses. Before taking your first online class, it’s recommended to study the online learning platform that you’ll use and read all the guidelines carefully in order to avoid any technical issues down the road.
You should reach out and make connections
As stated previously, online classes do give you the opportunity to connect with others, be it students or teachers. But one thing to keep in mind is that building relationships is not that easy when every interaction happens through a screen. You must take initiative and put in some effort to create a bond with the people in your class. You have the tools, but you must also have the will to reach out if you want to interact and network. Be the one to take the first step if no one else will.