We use cookies to personalize and improve your browsing experience. 

To learn more about how we store and use this data, visit our privacy policy here.

Online classes are a bit different from traditional face-to-face classes. You’ll likely learn the same content material, but you will likely do most of the work on your own, which means you need to be self-motivated and prepared to complete work on your own time. The best and the worst thing about online classes is the flexibility. Some students love online classes and some don’t – it all matters what kind of learner you are. Whether you are an older student or just entering your first year after high school, here are some things to keep in mind before signing up for an online class.

You need to be tech-savvy

This is numero uno. Being technologically literate is a must for online classes. There is just no way around it. At the very least, you need to know how to operate a computer, some kind of word software, and know how to troubleshoot basic computer problems. Many classes will require you to install software on your computer, record yourself on your computer’s camera, and at the very least, be able to engage in an online discussion with your professor and classmates.

It doesn’t seem like much, but for those who haven’t used a lot of technology in the past 5-6 years, technology has made many advances and changed tenfold. So if this is an area you struggle in, familiarize yourself with your computer and how it works. In fact, many older learners find it helpful to take a technology class in person before taking any of their online classes.

Managing your time

You’ll also have to be able to manage your time on your own. You won’t have a weekly or bi-weekly reminder to complete work as if you were in a regular class. Likewise, if you aren’t taking the class with anyone else, you won’t be able to discuss the class with anyone else except by forming a study group online or speaking with your classmates through the discussion board.

What this means is if you work full-time, have a family, and can’t imagine yourself fitting an online class into your daily schedule, an online class might not be for you. However, there are many time management techniques, tools, and advice for online classes published online and through your mentors.

Learning style and multiple instructional mediums

We mentioned before about self-motivation; this is a must. When you are taking an online class, you will have to read a lot of text, watch instructional videos, listen to podcasts and audio files, and all of this you’ll have to do on your own time. This is great for many people because you can do a lot of the work whenever you want – on the train going to work, sitting on the couch, and in between all of the other things of daily life.

This is why time management is essential, but you will also have to be able to take notes and annotate articles on your own, which is a lot different than reading a book or watching YouTube videos for pleasure. You’ll have to dedicate all of your attention to the task at hand, and be prepared to do just as much work, if not more, than a traditional class.

Online homework and assignments

To go along with this, online homework, assignments, quizzes, and exams will all be done online as well. So, if you have a midterm exam coming up, make sure that you set aside just as much time as you would a traditional class to study and take the exam. A lot of online class give you a limited amount of time to complete an exam too, for example, once you login to take the test it counts down from one hour and then will automatically cut you off. The key here is that if you have a busy life and a lot going on, make sure that you find a quiet place to complete your work. The nice thing is that most online classes allow you to utilize your book and/or other online resources to answer the questions.

University online courses towards a degree versus MOOCs and professional development courses

Lastly, it is good to know that online classes that are offered through the university towards a degree are significantly different than professional development and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

University courses will be taught by a professor of the university and require you to interact through video or discussion posts throughout the semester. The plus side is you’ll have a professor if you have any questions or need to meet in person for extra mentoring. The downside is you will be graded by participation and the quality of your posts.

A lot of the time MOOCs and professional development courses will be automated in some way. So you will still do reading, complete homework, and take tests, but there typically won’t be a professor to get extra help. Most are a series of videos and/or tasks you will have to complete in order to finish the course. The best thing to do before signing up for an online course is to research the time involved and the work it entails.