How Do Online College Courses Work?

September 7th, 2016 by

College Student Studying OnlineAnyone who has been to school already understands that there are several aspects to completing a course, which usually consists of reading, studying, discussing and completing an exam or final project. It’s the same in the online classroom except that everything happens online.

Getting Started

During the enrollment process, you should learn everything you will be required to have for successfully engaging in the online classroom. Your enrollment advisor or representative will have a list of these things and can help you make sure you have everything in place by the first day of class.

Basically you will need a computer and a word processing program such as Microsoft Word. You will be given directions for how to log in to your classroom and more than likely there will be an orientation online for new students to learn to navigate the learning platform which your school uses.

Tip: You should become familiar with navigating the online classroom as soon as you are given access to log in – just get in there and look around! Don’t wait until the first day of class.

Reading Your Course Materials

As with every class, there will be things you must read, and I say “must read” because if you try to take the easy way out by skipping the reading material, you are setting yourself up for failure.

When you study online, your first goal should be to develop strong study skills that will allow you to gain as much knowledge on your own as possible by reading everything available to you in regard to each lesson. You can’t rely on your teachers to feed you the information; instead, you should learn to be self-motivated to read and learn from your course materials.

Tip: Prepare yourself well on your own time and use your time in class discussions and interacting with your instructors to ask the types of questions that will help you the most in your journey to succeed.

Completing and Posting Assignments on Time

Every online course will have specific dates that certain things are due. Most instructors in online courses will provide you with a syllabus and a course calendar so that you can easily plan your schedule to include study time as well as prep time to get all of your assignments completed and ready to post.

Since you won’t be going to class in person to hand in your assignment, be sure you understand exactly where to post your completed assignments and be sure to follow specific instructions to avoid losing points.

Tip: Practice posting a document in the specified area ahead of time. Learn how to remove the document as well just in case you need to do so in the future. Always double check to make sure you have posted the correct version of your assignment.

Participating In Discussions

One of the most beneficial aspects of any class is the time spent discussing the lessons with your classmates and instructor. It is no different in the online classroom except that your discussion takes place in a forum where you post written messages to each other and answer questions posted by others.

In a classroom setting, teachers often credit students with points for class participation. You will likely find this to be true in the online classroom as well.

Your instructor will provide this information in a syllabus so that you will know how to earn designated participation points throughout the class. Even if the number of points available is small, take advantage of earning every point you can!

Tip: Think of the discussion forum kind of like texting, but don’t use texting slang – use your best grammatical skills when participating in class discussions. Your peers and your teacher will learn a lot about you by reading your posts and evaluating your writing and communication skills.

Understanding the Overall Expectations

When class begins, study your syllabus and know from the beginning what your primary goal is for making the best possible grade you can.

Will you be evaluated with a final exam based on the lessons you complete each week or will you have a final project or paper to write at the end of the course? Knowing what is expected of you weekly as well as at the end of the course will help you stay focused and get ready to excel at the end of the course.

Tip: Don’t wait until the last week of class to start preparing for the final project, paper or exam. Work on it every week to avoid stress at the end of the course. Be prepared all the way through class.

If you’re considering going back to school online, start by visiting to explore accredited colleges and universities offering today’s best online programs.


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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