What Are Online College Classes Like?

August 9th, 2016 by

Student at Laptop on Stack of BooksWhen students embark on their college careers, they discover a whole new world of learning and opportunities allowing them to gain a wide range of experiences. Whether beginning college classes in a campus setting or opening up your laptop to get started in class, most students are anxious to learn what their classes will be like.

Of course, as with all types of classes, a lot depends on the instructor, the subject, the university and, for online classes, the software used to present and share course materials, assignments and discussion. There will be specific requirements that you should be aware of before you make your choice of which school you will attend.

Communication Is the Key

Having taught in both the traditional college classroom and in the online classroom most recently, I can say that the most obvious difference is the method of communication. While there are other differences, which we shall discuss further, learning to communicate through the written word rather than verbally is the main thing online students have to get used to.

One comment I heard frequently from my students is that taking online classes forces students to become better writers as they communicate online with their peers and instructors. This is true because the main way to communicate is in the discussion forums which are carried out by posting written questions, answers and comments to the discussion board in an interactive setting.

Depending on the college you choose, the instructors may hold specific “office hours” that allow students to call or email them with questions or concerns that will be answered immediately. Other schools require instructors to answer questions within a particular time frame, such as within 24 hours, etc.

Traditional vs. Online Communication

When you go to class in a regular or traditional classroom, you see and converse with your classmates and your instructor in the normal fashion. When you go into your online classroom, you still communicate with your classmates and instructor. However, you do this via your computer and the platform used by the school.

Online classes are set up differently at various colleges and universities. Some have online streaming which allows students to visibly see an instructor present lectures to the class. Others allow the instructors to post written materials online that students can access to complete their lessons.

Still other schools use a combination of methods of instruction. Some offer synchronous study which means that all students and the teacher must be online at the same time each day. Other schools offer asynchronous classes, which allow students to access their course materials and participate in class at any given time.

Some programs require students to take exams at a particular location with a proctor to monitor students taking tests. Some schools allow students to get online and take an exam within a certain time frame; others have students complete projects to earn primary grades rather than taking exams.

The bottom line is that it depends on the school you choose to enroll in as to how your classes will be presented, how you will communicate with classmates and teachers, and how you will earn your grades.

Know What Your School Requires Before You Enroll

The most important thing to remember when deciding which college you will attend to earn your degree online is that you need to discuss all of these with the enrollment representative prior to enrollment. This will have a great deal of influence on how well the program will fit into your lifestyle.

For instance, if you choose the asynchronous classes, you will have more flexibility because you can do your class work any time of the day or night. However, some people may prefer the synchronous style which allows you to feel more connected to your class.

Going back to college online is a great option for busy working adults who need to juggle family, work and school in order to earn their degrees. You will have assignments and due dates for various papers or projects just as on-campus students do. However, you don’t have to deliver your work in person. The school provides a convenient platform that allows you to do everything online via your computer.

Make sure you are aware of how your program will work, and you should find that in no time at all, you will be making a positive contribution to your class and learning valuable information online in a very convenient and flexible manner.

Visit our online directory at to find the best accredited online college to earn your degree.


About the Author:

Sandy Davis

Sandy Davis is a long-time educator who holds a Master’s Degree in Education, having taught English, writing, and communication on the secondary and college levels. With ten years of experience in blogging, social media and content management, she is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist for a diverse range of clients.

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