How do online college courses work?

By | August 4, 2015

I know that every university is different, but you can see the time in the classroom and on-line registration of their lectures and certificates? What will happen?

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6 thoughts on “How do online college courses work?

  1. mischa

    it depends. I have had courses where you get dvd’s to watch for the lecture, read the textbooks and then write papers or have tests on line.

  2. Scotty

    Typically they give you course work and you have to complete the coursework within a week and than they give you more stuff to do. This repeats until the end of the semester. I am currently enrolled in one online class and I hate it. Don’t do the whole “online” thing, real college is a better investment.

    Also, most “online” colleges are scams, make sure your college is accredited before you enroll. I highly recommend you go to a physical classroom, you will learn so much more.

  3. old schoolgrrl

    I have been in college since 2003, both full and part time, and am finishing up my second degree very soon. Online study is fine IF you are organized, and will not ignore what you have to do. One good thing is that you get away with buying old books for cheap prices, for who will see you do not have the newest and most $$$ expensive textbook?
    I just took an online course in upper level criminal justice and paid 75 cents for a textbook. Got an A for the course!! It always works for me- for gas is very expensive and my school is far away. This Spring I go to Delaware to take classes, like I have been doing since last July, but this winter it is all online. Summer I go to intern, and I have to show up in person.
    Keep in mind your school will use some sort of BlackBoard or something like that, and it keeps TRACK of when you log on. Watch the CHAT feature, and be careful what you say, for your classmates can keep track of that. Do not call anybody in your discussion board online class a moron, but the temptation is always there. I have had some real dolts and dullards in online class with me. Dear God, they were dumb.
    However, I went to a community college for a few years, and nearly punched out two people, so maybe my temper is an issue. Give online a try!

  4. CoachT

    “Most” online college courses aren’t a scam – “most” online programs are at the traditional colleges and universities. Everyone and his brother teaches online these days. (but, some are scams – do your research before picking a school) You have 1000′s of choices – probably including your local community college and state U.

    You don’t necessarily learn more in a traditional classroom – the US Dept of Education did a study a couple of months ago that shows that the online folks are, as a generality, learning more than their classroom/traditional counterparts. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/ interesting reading. A lot of people want to disagree with this report but nobody is able to offer any real proof that it’s wrong.

    How does it work? Usually, you don’t have to “prove you are there” because online courses aren’t about what’s called ‘time in the seat’ but instead about learning objectives. In other words, in a classroom course you’re supposed to be there 3 hours per week to learn the history of the Battle of Shiloh. In an online class nobody cares so much how much time it took you to learn about the Battle of Shiloh (it could take 1 hour or 20) — they only care that you demonstrate that you’ve learned it. You’ll have to prove that you learned the material some way other than “but I was in class every day” – usually by writing.

    Most courses revolve around discussing with your classmates the assigned reading for the week. You’ll actually have to read the textbook in an online class. Some have streamed lectures or web-video to watch as well. Most will require that you write in a discussion thread a few times each week – either responding to the professor’s questions or discussing the material.

    Usually, you aren’t required to log in at any specific time or day (except for occasional exams or scheduled “chats” in some courses). That’s the main advantage of an online course – you can do it anytime from anyplace. But, you’ll have assignments (reading, writing, projects, etc) that are due by a specific day/time and you’ll have to submit those on time. That’s one big disadvantage, it’s very easy to procrastinate.

    Another disadvantage is that it’s slower getting help when needed – you have to rely on email or phone. Some subjects aren’t well suited for that sort of help – such as math or lab science.

    A typical assignment might be as simple as: “Read chapter 3 and post your ideas on the mistakes General Johnston made….before Tuesday at midnight. Reply to at least two other student’s comments.” There is a lot of reading and writing in an online class.

    Exams can be either online and unproctored or in-the-seat and proctored, it depends on the professor, course, and school. Very often, the exam in an online class is a paper or a project instead of the typical ‘multiple-guess’ quiz.

    An online course requires a lot of dedication and motivation – there’s nobody reminding you to read the chapter, telling you what it said, or reminding you that a paper is due next Tuesday morning. Most people don’t have that sort of motivation and need to be told “be in room 302 on Tues and Thurs at 10:30AM” or they won’t do any work. But, if you’re self-motivated and can stay on track, online works great.

    For some subjects (literature, history, sociology, etc.) online is great – because those courses are about reading and writing a lot either way. For other courses (math, lab science, applied arts, etc…) some hands-on time is essential for most people and online doesn’t work so well.

    These last two reasons are why most people can’t complete a whole degree online. It is really difficult for most of us to stay motivated to get our work done week-after-week when we aren’t required to be in a specific place at a specific time. For those, a combination (hybrid) program is best.

    People that have weak tech skills or unreliable equipment should probably not do online courses at all – the material is hard enough without also having to learn how to work the computer.

  5. PE2008

    Some online courses are “asynchronous”, meaning your assignments and progress are at your own pace. The better online courses are synchronous and interactive, meaning software such as “Blackboard” is used to communicate in real time between teacher and students, at set times.

    Be very wary of online courses. Regardless of what enthusuasts say, employers do not like to hear that entire degrees were taken online. Graduates with online degrees live in morbid fear they will be found out and humiliated. That is why they go to great lengths to hide the online origin of their degree and often insist that their diploma does not specify “online”.

    As a matter of pedagogy, I disagree that online courses are best for “soft” undergraduate subjects such as History or English. These really are best studied on campus, in class with enthusiastic students and a good teacher. That remains the only way to get a good undergraduate education.

    Online is best for, for example, graduate engineering courses, where the student is already highly qualified and is looking for a quick way to transfer and absorb information.

  6. David

    As already noted – schools have different approaches. For instance, some schools require students to lo gin at specific times for minimum amounts of time because of live lectures. Others offer prerecorded material available on download.

    Schools can verify that you are actually logging in (or at least someone who has access to your unique login) and can add additional levels of accountability with proctored exams. Can you cheat the system? Sure. . . but then again so can any student in a brick and mortar school. In some ways it’s easier to cheat yet in others more difficult. If you really want the degree you’ll do the work because cheating now hurts you later.

    Bottom line admissions counselor what they mean by online and how their school approaches the online learning piece.

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