If you’ve never taken an online class before, you might be wondering if learning online is hard. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be! If you’re hesitant to enroll in an online class because you’re not sure what to expect or you’re worried you might not pass, read on for tips that’ll help you decide if online learning is right for you.
Are Online Classes Harder than Regular Classes?
Online classes aren’t necessarily harder than regular classes, but they are different. You’ll want to choose an online class that’s organized in a way that helps you be successful. If you’re hoping for a traditional course experience--just one that happens in your own home--sign up for a synchronous online class that meets regularly during a pre-set term. Need a class that offers you maximum flexibility in where and when you complete your assignments? A competency-based or self-paced option is your best bet, but develop an accountability plan to stay on track.
Top 3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Classes
Advantages of Online Classes
Online classes offer three major advantages over traditional classes:
- Flexibility and convenience. If you work full-time or have family commitments, it can be much easier to fit an online class into your life than a face-to-face one at a local college. Taking an online class allows you to cut out commuting time or to take classes at times when face-to-face classes might not normally be offered.
- Affordability. While some institutions charge just as much for an online class as a face-to-face one, competency-based institutions like Western Governor’s University or online course providers like StraighterLine offer courses at a significantly lower cost.
- Earn your degree faster. Transferring online classes to the institution you hope to graduate from can significantly speed up your time to graduation. (Before you sign up for an online class, though, check with your school’s Registrar to be sure that the credit will be accepted.)
Disadvantages of Online Classes
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to online classes that you’ll want to consider, too.
- Need for self-discipline. Taking any college class requires some self-discipline, but an online class usually requires a bit more, especially if you’re taking a self-paced course where you set your own deadlines. Ask your friends and family to help you stay accountable.
- Potential lack of community. If you’re taking a cohort-based online class, you may become part of an enthusiastic learning community that can keep you motivated when things get tough. On the other hand, in a self-paced course, it’s easy to feel isolated. If you’re craving community but don’t have the opportunity to interact with classmates, be sure to reach out to advisors, tutors, and coaches who can help you feel connected.
- Reliance on technology. Most college campuses have excellent wifi, computer labs, and other technological amenities that online schools don’t necessarily offer. If you live in an area with spotty internet access, or if you’re not very comfortable with technology, the logistics of taking an online class can be stressful.
Online learning can take some getting used to, but choosing the right type of online class and enlisting your friends and family to help you stay on track will set you up for success. In fact, more than a third of all college students take at least one class online now. If they can do it, you can, too!
Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.
Curious if online learning is for you? Try out one of StraighterLine’s most popular online courses today for free.