How Does Online College Work? FAQ and Answers About Online Learning

If you are considering pursuing online education you may be wondering how does online college work. Online college works like you would expect. Students take their classes fully or partially via the internet rather than attending a brick and mortar university.

If you are thinking about attending college online you may have some questions before taking the plunge. Below we list ten of the most common questions prospective students ask when considering taking classes online.

1. What do I need to know before enrolling in an online course?

The process to register for online and brick and mortar university classes is fairly similar. Since much of the class registration is done online these days for both the process isn’t much different.

Students considering online education should review the course requirements before enrolling as well as the number of credits required per semester. Students should also be aware of the requirements or penalties for dropping classes.

2. How many weeks do online classes run?

There is some variance in the structure for online classes. Some online degree programs adhere to a traditional semester-based schedule. Other programs may split up the year into smaller sessions. For example, a seven and a half week session vs the typical 14 week semesters.

Graduation credit requirements may vary from program to program so make sure you understand your program graduation requirements before registering for classes.

3. Do online classes happen at specific times?

Online courses are typically self-paced; which is one of the aspects that draw students to online education in the first place. For many programs students are assigned coursework that needs to be completed before weeks end. The pace at which students complete these tasks is up to them.

Again one of the key benefits to online education is this flexibility of schedule. Perfect for those that have work and/or family commitments that prevent them from attending a physical school.

4. Can You Get a Degree Faster Online By Working Ahead?

While there are accelerated bachelors degree programs online, typically with an online education program there is a fixed pace to learning so working ahead is not possible. However there are ways to work ahead in a sense by acquiring the reading material in advance and keeping ahead of the lessons.

In some programs, students may also apply credits for past work, advanced placement courses or military experience to shorten the number of credits one needs to graduate. As with any college experience taking more credits at once allows you to complete your degree faster.

5. How is an online classroom typically structured?

Generally students have access to an online portal were they can access course materials. This online learning management system allows them to view their schedule and grades; contact professors or support services, and monitor their progress on lessons.

Many online programs also have a live component, where students view streaming lectures online and sometimes participate in discussions through videoconferencing or chat. This interactive method of learning incorporates some of the traditional college experience and allows students to engage with professors and other students. Often times these sessions are recorded if you are not able to attend live.

6. Do online courses have in-person components?

Some online classes may have a few in person activities or follow up meetings with professors. Also some courses require “in the field” or residency components on the school’s campus before or during the program. This is particularly important in health care fields as you will need to log many hours of work in a clinical setting.

For example in an online early childhood education associate degree program students may have the opportunity to work hand in hand with children in an education setting.

Another in person component allows students to experience team-building or networking activities. And many programs allow students to attend on campus activities if the students live in the area.

7. What are typical assignments in online classes?

Typical assignments vary depending on your course of study. But you can expect many of the assignments to align with those you will find at a brick and mortar college. Research papers, exams and plenty of reading. Responding to your professors questions in a live chat may be expected as well.

Online courses may include group projects as well. Students communicate virtually, and give remote presentations. This, of course, can be challenging due to the diverse nature of student locations. Students in the group will live in various time zones making working together a bit more difficult at times.

8. What is the typical workload for an online university?

Sometimes you can choose the number of courses or credits you take at once. With other programs you must adhere to a set curriculum.

Just like in traditional college the time spent on coursework varies but many online learners say they spend about 1.5 hours a week on their studies per credit. So a full load of 15 credits would take 20-30 hours of study per week.

9. How do students interact in an online class?

Students typically interact through discussion forums, video conferences, webinars, group chat, as well as phone and email.

Online students interact with professors in similar ways, and may have time to chat before online webinars begin to ask questions or better get to know their instructors. While you may not have in person face time like in a traditional setting video chat does allow students to develop a strong relationship with professors.

10. How do students take tests in online courses?

Online students may need to visit a local testing site with an on-site professor for some testing. However many tests are done virtually. Of course there are measures in place to prevent or discourage cheating. Exams may be monitored via webcam or other computer software to detect cheating by checking the test-takers’ screen.

How does online college work? A question and answer session to help you decide if an online education is right for you. #education

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These days information is at our finger tips. When we want it, wherever we want it. For this reason online colleges have become a valid way to get your degree. I've spent (and am spending) hundreds of hours researching the world of online education for my own children. This blog will hopefully help you save some time in your research so you can get your degree a little bit faster.

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