Are Online Courses Worth It

Last Updated on July 29, 2023

Online courses are a great way of learning without having to leave the comfort of your home or office. No matter what your reason for taking courses is, online courses are quickly becoming more popular. This article will help you decide if online courses are worth it for you.

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7 Things You Should Know Before Taking an Online Course

Today, employers want an educated workforce. In response, more people are turning to online education to fit school into their busy lives. Before you decide to take online classes, you should know that they’re different than traditional classes in some key ways. These differences may cancel out the advantages of a flexible learning schedule for you. It all depends on your learning style and needs.

#1 Student Effort = Student Success

Online classes are not for everyone. Success with this format takes a great deal of self-motivation. Students should realize that they will work just as hard in an online class as they would in a traditional course.

Independent, disciplined, and productive students are often most successful with online classes.

#2 Online Classes Demand Excellent Time-Management Skills

Online classes may let you study whenever you want to, but don’t think you’ll spend any less time studying. Do you wait to the last minute to do your work? Are you easily distracted? Do you have trouble setting goals and reaching them? If so, online classes might not be for you.

#3 Online Classes are as Difficult as Traditional Classes

You might be able to take them on your own schedule, but that doesn’t make the course any easier. Without strong time-management skills, the advantages of online classes quickly become disadvantages. Add to that the challenges of learning through a computer, and it could quickly become a more difficult than a traditional class.

#4 Real Professors Teach Online Classes

So long as the school you are attending is accredited, your class will be taught by a credentialed professor. Though you may never meet them in person, the lesson plans they give you will resemble the other courses they teach. They will know as much as any other professor in their field and may even teach on-campus courses too. The only real difference is that you’ll be in touch with them through online discussion boards, emails, and online lecture sessions.

#5 Online Students Have Plenty of Opportunities to Interact with Their Peers

You might worry that learning online will make interaction with other students difficult. Fortunately, that’s not the case. You might not share a classroom with them, but you can still chat and collaborate. Online classes have discussion boards, online chat, and video conferencing to help. This way, online students are still able to connect with each other, and have opportunities to work collaboratively.

#6 Online Exams are Proctored

Online classes use special tools to track students during tests and help maintain academic integrity. The use of these tools sustains the quality and reputation of your online degree. Some courses even require proctored on-campus testing. If you live far from campus, you may want to check for such requirements before enrolling.

#7 Not All Online Degrees are Equal

This is really important to understand: while online degrees have become increasingly more common, some are viewed more favorably than others. The primary concern for employers is the quality and consistency of the school that issues your degree. Click to tweet In fact, employer opinion often depends on three things: accreditation, campus, and school brand. In general, the higher the school’s standing on these factors, the more favorably employers view the degree.

Recent issues involving for-profit online schools have made this an important issue. For example, in April of 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated University of Phoenix. The FTC acted on complaints from students in the Bachelor of Science and Human Services online degree program.  Many students applied for jobs only to find that employers had rejected their applications, citing that the program was not properly accredited. While some students received settlements, others lost valuable time and money.

The primary concern for employers is the quality and consistency of the school that issues your degree. Luckily, Abound is here to help you find online degrees that are worth your time, money, and effort! Situations like these illustrate why Abound does not include for-profit schools in our guide.

The Top Eight Things You Need To Know About Online Education

There is a variety of opinions in the media these days regarding online learning. Depending on what you read, online education can appear to be either a cure-all or cancer. In an effort to cut through the smoke, here are the top eight established facts you need to know.

1) Online learning is here to stay. Since 1986, when the first online degree program from an accredited institution was offered (by John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California), growth has been exponential. Today, one-third of America’s 21 million enrolled students are taking some or all of their instruction online. The eleven-year study by the Babson Survey Research Group shows over seven million online enrollments in the fall semester of 2013.

2) There is no significant difference in learning outcomes. Some 30 years of research, including that of the U.S. Department of Education, has found no evidence that online learning is qualitatively inferior to that obtained in a traditional classroom. Unfortunately, those who have preached online learning’s “convenience” for so long have led many to believe that this means “easy,” which is not true. Online courses can be more or less rigorous depending on the instructor who develops the course and the academic department that reviews it.

At the same time, advances in information technology now make it possible to offer significantly more rigorous courses that don’t “feel” as difficult because of the design of the course and the support features that can be directly integrated. For example, one online provider, Excelsior College, sought to address the fact that its students, like most students, live in fear of anything quantitative. In response, Excelsior built access to the Khan Academy‘s tutorials into the lessons for its required courses. The result? Both grades and completion rates went up, with no dumbing-down required.

It also is important to note that, given the “anytime, anywhere” nature of online instruction, it allows for maximum student readiness to learn, as opposed to fixed-time-and-place classroom formats. Employing new adaptive technologies, it is possible to incorporate a student’s learning style in the organization and delivery of instruction. With such features, there is increasing reason to believe that online learning can surpass that of the typical classroom, for certain students.

3) Online learning is widespread. Eighty percent of regionally accredited institutions of higher education are now offering online access. This includes elite institutions, among them, Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Chicago.

4) There is no single form of online learning. Learning formats range from text-only “electronic correspondence courses” to multimedia-rich offerings featuring a high degree of interactivity, access to external links, animations, and high-quality simulations.

However, most of what is currently offered, especially by public institutions, is at the less-sophisticated end of the spectrum. For schools that can afford the more-sophisticated versions, the current generation of courses is producing superior completion rates and better learning outcomes. Excelsior College again provides an illustration. It has spent over $100,000 per course to support the online version of its associate degree nursing program. Its completion rates are 96 percent, with demand growing. But the amount budgeted by most institutions for a single three-credit-hour course is typically $10-$20 thousand, resulting in a product that is less interactive, less eye-appealing, and less engaging. These drawbacks likely hike student dropout rates.

5) MOOCs are not an example of high-quality online learning. Contrary to perceptions created by the media, Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs’) principal benefit to students is not their learning outcomes, but their price. The fact that such “mega courses” can issue from elite brands, such as MIT, Harvard, and Stanford, has led some to suppose that they have invented a new form of online learning. They have not.

Moreover, the notion—“If it comes from the elite schools, it must be good”—is an error. What MOOC has implemented a psychometrically prepared, nationally-normed assessment as part of its outcome measurement? None of which I’m aware. (Perhaps this is in the works.) Absent such metrics, it is difficult to know if anyone has learned very much. This may explain MOOCs’ typical, 90-plus-percent attrition rate, along with the fact that “traditional” online courses offer considerable faculty-student interaction, personalized attention, flexibility, and attention to outcomes.

6) Online learning is well-suited to adult learners, but not necessarily traditional-aged students. Recent studies by Columbia’s Teachers College conflate these groups and hence come to some questionable conclusions regarding online education outcomes. For older, self-motivated, adults, online programs produce superior results to those of the classroom. For less-focused, less-sure, 18-24 year olds, there are often issues of persistence and completion. Moreover, there is reason for concern over our sons and daughters “going to college” in their bedrooms at home. Although younger students can indeed benefit from the much-publicized “blended model” (combining online learning with brick-and-mortar classrooms), they still need the experience of practicing to become an adult—living with others, reconciling differences, being held accountable for what they do and don’t do, etc.

7) “Institutional” cost savings from going online are less than is often acknowledged. The only area of great savings for schools is the decreased need for classroom facilities. For adult students, there also is no need for recreation and extracurricular support services.

However, whether physical or virtual, there remains the need for the entire spectrum of enrollment management services, as well as an enhanced need for IT support. Student-savings is where we find the real difference. Those studying online can be anywhere in the world, have no commuting costs, no childcare costs, and no lost income from the need to study on campus fulltime. Here, the savings can be considerable.

8) Online learning could soon become the norm for “post-traditional” and graduate students who cannot afford the opportunity cost of traditional programs. That said, while online learning is here to stay, neither the residential campus nor the flagship research university is going to go away. Society always will need the campus-based option to help our youth become adults and citizens. Society also will always need the research-intensive institutions to continue the quest for new discoveries, and to provide the content that online learning distributes so well.

Online Classes: Everything You Need to Know Before Studying Online

Are Online Classes Worth It? The Pros & Cons | HBS Online

Enrolling in online college classes holds a lot of benefits for students compared to traditional counterparts. The added convenience and flexibility of getting your educational credentials online has been a huge selling point for these “virtual colleges.” You can attend classes anywhere. As long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection, you can learn anywhere that a computer can go—at home, in your favorite library or coffee shop, or even while traveling internationally.

Online classes have become so popular because they are designed to fit around students’ needs, allowing them to continue working full-time and easily work their studies around other commitments. This makes them a popular choice for working parents who may simply not have the time to attend physical college classes. Online classes are also hugely popular with both young and old working professionals who are looking for a way to further their education, increase their earning potential, or even facilitate a career change.

Online schools also typically give you the option to choose whether you’d prefer to study part- or full-time, with the option to make changes throughout the course of your degree. The schedule is flexible; although there are still deadlines that require you to submit your work online at a certain time, you can attend class and do your schoolwork from anywhere and at any time.

woman on computer at desk

The Main Benefits of Online Classes


Students who are learning online don’t have to stick to timetables that are predetermined by the college. You can decide on the time of day that’s most suitable for you to study, whether that’s early in the morning or late at night, or even on the weekend. This makes it easier than ever for students to fit getting their degree around a full-time career, bringing up a young family, starting up a business, caring for a relative, or a combination of the above. If you have a busy life with lots of commitments that might stand in the way of your ability to get to 9 AM lectures throughout the week, online study could be the perfect alternative for you.


Unlike traditional campus-based classes, online study gives students the ability to manage their own time and come up with a unique study plan that works well for them. In addition to being able to choose the time of day and week that is best for them when it comes to doing their schoolwork, online students are also able to choose where they would prefer to study. There’s no need to be restricted to a certain lecture hall on campus. If you’re an online student, you can study at your local coffee shop, the library, at a friend’s house, from your bed, or even while traveling the world. The choice is completely yours!


Finally, another factor that makes online study so appealing these days is that it’s often cheaper to get an online degree compared with the cost of studying at a traditional institution, and the qualification that you gain at the end is no different. While this is not true for all online colleges, you can find many online degree programs that are far cheaper in terms of tuition fees. If you’re worried about the rising cost of tuition fees, this could be the perfect option for you. In addition, online students often spend less on studying in general. There’s no need to relocate, commute to classes, or in some cases even pay for textbooks, as everything you need is right at your fingertips when you open your laptop.

How Popular Are Online Degrees?

Are Online Business Courses Worth It?

Online study has seen a massive boom lately, with the number and proportion of students taking online classes on a trajectory since 2017. And, as the number of online students grows, the number of overall post-secondary enrollments in traditional colleges has fallen. According to Inside Higher Ed, at least one-third of all students are taking some kind of online course, whether it’s a 100% online degree or some online modules for a program that they are taking on campus.

And, without online education, the number of students enrolling in college would be declining even more. According to a report published in 2018 by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, college applications overall dropped by almost 90,000 students from 2016-2017, which backs data published previously by the National Student Clearinghouse. However, the report also showed a clear trend of online study on the rise, with the total number of students taking at least some of their programs online growing by a huge 5.7% to over 350,000.

Studies also show that the number of students who are now studying exclusively online is also growing rapidly. This number grew from 14.7% in 2016 to 15.4% in 2017 and is expected to have risen even more since then. And between 2016-2017, the number of all students combining online and on-campus programs grew by 1.5%. In 2017, the number of all students taking at least one online class sat at a healthy 33.1%. More recently, surveys by BestColleges found that the majority of online learners have career goals in mind—69% were studying to start a certain career, accelerate their current career, or switch industries altogether.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Studying Online?

While there are certainly many benefits to studying online, it can’t be ignored that the majority of students are still enrolled in traditional, campus-based classes. And, while this is undoubtedly the most popular option amongst young students who want to get the full college experience, it’s worth considering that there can also be multiple drawbacks to online education.

Lack of accreditation

Before enrolling in an online program, it’s important that you check that the program is accredited and make sure that you verify this information with the accrediting agency. If you find an online school that seems too good to be true, then it just might be. And, always be wary of an online school that’s reluctant to provide you with accreditation information. Legitimate online schools, whether they are a part of established or new universities, will be proud of their accredited status, and the information will be readily available for you to check. Earning a degree from a school that is not accredited could mean you end up with a worthless qualification, leaving you in debt and no better prepared for your chosen career, so tread carefully. To find out which online colleges are accredited by the Department of Education, search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).

As for popular online schools that are accredited, well-known and highly respected Penn State University has offered a range of online-only degrees since 1998 through Penn State World Campus. Southern New Hampshire University, which has an 80-year history as an educational institution, has a physical campus of 3,000 students and an online population that’s swelled to 80,000 students. Online colleges like Walden University, American Public University System, University of Phoenix, and Capella University are all accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is one of six regional accrediting associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.


Greater Workload

Many students make the mistake of believing that online degree programs are somewhat easier compared to studying on campus. And while it may be easier to have the freedom to study wherever and whenever you like, the workload is certainly not lighter. Typically, online programs will require a greater amount of reading and assignments compared to traditional classes, so expect to spend at least ten hours per week studying.

Little to no face-to-face interaction

This isn’t a drawback for many students who are happy to communicate with their tutors online, but if you’re used to the option of being able to meet with your professor in person to go over your work and discuss your program, then you need to be prepared to work without this choice when you study online. Many students underestimate the impact of never being able to meet their tutor and other students taking the class; learning online can certainly be very isolating. However, the good news is that as online learning becomes more popular, there are many ways to get around this. Social media groups for various online universities are popping up everywhere, so get involved in the online community and chances are you’ll find nearby students who’d love to meet in person.

distracted guy


When you study online, you really are in charge of your own destiny. Before you enroll in an online program, you need to be sure that you have what it takes to manage your own time and motivate yourself to work, without anybody else telling you that you have to do so. Learning online means that there are no set classes, lectures, and workshops to attend—and for many students, this can lead to an increased risk of procrastination. You’ll need to work on your time management and organization skills in order to ensure that you stay on top of your work and are able to get things done on time. The best way to do this is to create a study schedule for yourself that fits around your lifestyle and stick to it.

The good news is that despite the potential pitfalls of studying online, staying focused and doing research where necessary means that you can easily find a way around them. And, the vast majority of students are satisfied with their online education and report that they are happy they chose it over a traditional, campus-based degree.

guy talking online

Tips and Tricks for Successful Learing Online

The good news about online learning is that if you are prepared and have chosen an accredited university and program, you will reap the benefits from your online diploma in exactly the same way as you would if you had gotten your degree on campus. With the right strategies, you can make sure that you are getting the most from your online degree.

Treat it like a campus-based program

One of the biggest mistakes that online students make is taking too much advantage of the additional flexibility. When it comes to succeeding with an online class, you need to have the self-motivation to be able to sit down and decide to study, plus the dedication to actually carry out your plans. Although you have the flexibility to choose when and where you’d like to study, you can’t put it off forever. Remember that you’re paying to take this online program, so show up and treat it just the same as you would a campus-based degree course.

Be accountable

The flexibility to create a unique schedule that works for you is one of the most appealing factors for many students when it comes to studying online. But you need to hold yourself accountable and make sure that you are studying when you said you would. At the beginning of the semester, set goals and check in with yourself weekly to review your plans to be sure that it’s working well for you. If you’re having trouble holding yourself accountable, you might want to pair up with a fellow classmate—social media is great for this—or ask a friend or relative to be your accountability partner and check in with them regularly.

studying hard

Create a study space

Distractions and disorganization are two of the biggest success killers when it comes to studying online. Create a regular study space—whether it’s your spare room or the kitchen table—and have somewhere to store your textbooks and notes that you can easily access. Make sure that your study space is quiet and distraction-free. And, make sure that your internet is up to scratch for studying online and that you invest in a quality pair of headphones for listening to online lectures or discussions.

Improve your time-management skills

Before you begin studying, a good way to get prepared is to improve your time-management skills. You can take mini online courses free of charge to help you learn better time management if you feel it will help. At the start of the semester, go over the work that you have to do and come up with a weekly schedule that works for you—you can change this each week if needed, but the important thing is to stick to it. Make a note of when your assignments and exams are due, and make sure that you are giving yourself ample time to be prepared.

Don’t Forget to Frame Your Online College Degree

Online learning requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline. Staying focused and keeping your eye on the prize while juggling a job, family, finances, and other responsibilities is not an easy task. You are working hard for that diploma, so make sure you put this major achievement on display! You can find officially licensed diploma frames for a few online colleges listed below and a whole lot more at

  • American Public University Diploma Frames
  • Capella University Degree Frames
  • Penn State World Campus Diploma Frames
  • Walden University Degree Frames
  • University of Phoenix Diploma Frames
  • Southern New Hampshire University Degree Frames

10 Sources for Free Computer Programming Courses Online

If you’re looking for a way to learn computer programming without breaking the bank, these ten resources provide free online computer courses for beginners to experienced programmers.

Free Online Computer Courses

Are you interested in learning the basics of computer programming or brushing up on your skills? Maybe you’re considering pursuing a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in computer programming but you’re not yet sure if it’s the right major for you. Check out this list of free computer training resources for a step in the right direction.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Students and educators can access thousands of previously taught MIT courses through MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) project. Materials may vary, but usually include a syllabus, readings and assignments, lecture notes, learning activities and exams. These self-paced courses are free to browse, download, and share with friends. However, they are not moderated and do not award credit for completion. Courses like the following might be a good way to preview college-level programming coursework:

  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python: Designed as an introduction to the conceptual and practical basics of programming, students of this course can write their own small programs with Python 3.5. Resources include in-class questions and video solutions to accompany each lecture.
  • Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science: This offering is the follow-up to the above course and builds on the concept of using computer programming to help solve problems. It includes assignments plus additional Python resources.

2. edX

edX was developed by MIT and Harvard University as a collection of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from over 140 colleges and universities all over the world. Courses are self-paced and include all required materials, though students may pay an additional fee for extras like graded coursework and a certificate of completion. Course availability varies, but can include offerings like:

  • CS50’s Introduction to Game Development: Offered by HarvardX, this 12-week course takes a comprehensive look at how video games are created and covers the use of common programming languages like Lua and C#.
  • Introduction to C++: Provided by Microsoft, this four-week course contains four modules designed to introduce students to programming in C++. It includes instruction in syntax and language fundamentals, as well as working with functions.
  • Java Fundamentals for Android Development: Offered by Universidad Galileo (GalileoX), students can learn basic Java application development skills. In addition to receiving an overview of Java programming, students learn how to work with the Android SDK and prepare for the Google Associate Android Developer Certification Exam.

3. The Open University – OpenLearn

Students can access thousands of free educational materials through OpenLearn, the free learning platform by The Open University (OU). Courses are available in a range of subjects and difficulty levels and are self-paced. Registration is optional, but it allows students to access a record of any completed courses. A sample of free online computer courses available on OpenLearn include:

  • Learn to Code for Data Analysis (Introductory)
  • Simple Coding (Introductory)
  • Modelling Object-Oriented Software – An Introduction (Intermediate)
  • An Introduction to Software Development (Advanced)
  • Software and the Law (Advanced)

4. Carnegie Mellon University – Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the top schools for computer programming in the United States and has made some free online computer courses available for independent learners on its Open Learning Initiative (OLI) website. OLI courses are free and contain all necessary materials (such as activities, lectures, and learning objectives), but they are entirely self-guided and not eligible for college credit. Students may complete coursework in topics like:

  • Introduction to Programming in Java
  • Principles of Computation with Python
  • Media Programming
  • Logic & Proofs

5. Programming Video Tutorials Online

This website offers free video and text tutorials that cover the basics of programming in several languages, including C++, C#, and Java. Videos cover subjects in programming fundamentals, like structure and syntax, variables and operators, conditionals, arrays, strings, functions, and classes. Students can also learn about web programming languages, such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript.

6. Introduction to Programming Using Java

Students may freely access or download the online version of this textbook written by David J. Eck, currently on its eighth edition (as of July, 2019). Geared towards beginning Java programmers, this book begins with an introduction to how computers work, moving into the functions of object-oriented programming and the Java Virtual Machine. Students can then learn how to write, compile and run their own Java programs, starting with very simple exercises to more complex applications. Each chapter has its own quiz and activities (with solutions), and source codes are provided for all examples appearing in the book.

7. is a free computer training resource that features tutorials in Java, plus web programming languages like HTML, CSS and PHP. These tutorials are self-paced and divided into chapters that focus on a specific subject, like variables, loops, strings, object-oriented programming, and creating interactive events. Each chapter includes example code and explanations, while quizzes are also available for self-assessment. Absolute newbies can get started with the website’s own Introduction to Computer Programming, a course that explains the more basic concepts, terms, and how-tos of writing code.

8. Google Developers – Google’s Python Class

Students who already have some programming knowledge can deepen their understanding of Python with this free online course from Google Developers. It includes a mix of text and video lectures, plus coding exercises so students can hone their programming skills while learning the language. Beginning with a chapter on installing Python and course materials, students can learn about Python syntax, operators, classes, iteration, regular expressions, and more.

9. freeCodeCamp

On, students who are interested in front end programming (such as HTML and Javascript) can learn correct syntax and form through interactive coding lessons and projects. This non-profit website is community supported and all-inclusive, so there’s no need to download or install any additional software to complete the coursework. also features a community forum for additional help. Students can complete courses on their own time and, after registering with the website, work towards earning free certification in these subject areas and more:

  • Responsive Web Design (300 hours, 5 projects): Includes courses in basic HTML, CSS, design and accessibility, and responsive web design principles
  • Javascript Algorithms and Data Structures (300 hours, 5 projects): Includes courses in Javascript and ES6, debugging, algorithm scripting, and object-oriented programming
  • Front End Libraries (300 hours, 5 projects): Includes lessons and activities in Bootstrap, jQuery, React, Sass, and Redux
  • Coding Interview Prep (Thousands of hours): Includes practice for common algorithms one may be required to know for a job interview, plus programming challenges designed to hone one’s skills, such as Rosetta Code and Project Euler problems.

10. CodeAcademy

Students looking for an interactive coding experience they can take anywhere might want to give CodeAcademy a try. It allows students to develop practical programming skills by building projects with Java, C++, Python, and more, right on the website; no need to download a separate development environment. While CodeAcademy has a number of optional paid courses and projects, students may also choose from a wide variety of free courses, including:

  • Learn Java
  • Learn C#
  • Learn Ruby
  • Learn Statistics with Python
  • Learn the Command Line
  • Learn Git


8 Strategies for Getting the Most out of an Online Class

In the past, earning a college degree meant physically attending in-person classes, which often posed challenges for working professionals or those with complicated schedules. Now, thanks to advances in technology, it’s easier than ever to find a degree program that offers the flexibility you need, whether through traditional in-person classes, online learning, or a blend of the two.

There are many advantages to online courses; they allow you to learn whenever, wherever, and however works best for you, making it easier to earn a degree while balancing work and family commitments. And without having to attend classes in person, online learning affords you access to top degree programs across the country that might have otherwise been inaccessible or highly inconvenient.

Online classes can present unique challenges, however, if you’re not prepared. But if you develop skills for effective online learning, you’ll find the courses can be an excellent alternative to a traditional classroom setting. Here are some tips for online learning success to make sure you get the most value out of your next class.

Tips for Taking Online Classes

If you’re considering taking online college courses (or you’re already enrolled in a program) the tips and advice below can help you address their unique challenges to get the most value out of your online program. 

1. Treat an online course like a “real” course.

When it comes to online classes, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, “I am going to work on this,” as well as the dedication to actually follow through. Though you can be flexible as to when you choose to complete your work during the week, you can’t put it off indefinitely.

One of the easiest ways to ensure follow through is to remember that you are paying to take this online course, just as you would for a traditional, in-person class. You must “show up” if you’re going to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class—or, better yet, a job—and you’ll be off to the right start.

2. Hold yourself accountable

Set goals at the beginning of the semester, and check in with yourself weekly. In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. But without a professor actively reminding you, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due.

If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner. By being organized, proactive, and self-aware, you can get the most from your online class even when life outside of school becomes chaotic.

3. Practice time management.

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. Without them, you might easily to find yourself cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments.

Though how you manage your time will depend on your schedule, learning style, and personality, here are some universally valuable tips to help you practice and improve your time management skills:

  • Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and make note of major assignments. Mark them on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to factor in prior commitments that may interfere with your regular study schedule, such as weddings or vacations, so you can give yourself enough extra time to complete assignments.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check in periodically throughout the term, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

4. Create a regular study space and stay organized.

Set up a dedicated learning environment for studying. By completing your work there repeatedly, you’ll begin to establish a routine. Whether your workspace is your kitchen table, a library, or the corner booth in a local coffee shop, it’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you. Experiment to discover which type of setting boosts your productivity. Wherever you choose, make sure there’s high-speed internet access so you’re not trying to take an online course over a lagging connection.

Setting up a regular workspace or office will also help you to stay organized. Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals. When setting up your study space, make sure you:

  • Have a high-speed internet connection
  • Have the required books, materials, and software for the course
  • Have headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces)

5. Eliminate distractions.

From Netflix to social media to dishes piling up in the skink, you’ll be faced with many distractions that can easily derail your studies. The best online students know how to lessen these distractions and set aside time to focus.

Exactly how much of a challenge these distractions will prove to be will depend on your own unique personality and situation. Some might find that they can tune out a noisy home by listening to music. Others might choose to work from a local coffee shop or library to eliminate their urge to multitask at home. Ultimately, you will need to find a strategy that works best for you.

Regardless of where you choose to work, consider turning your cell phone off to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up. And if you’re still having trouble resisting the temptation to check your email or surf the web, try downloading a website blocker. Using applications like Cold Turkey and Freedom can help eliminate distractions by blocking the apps or websites that tend to compete for your attention, such as Facebook and Twitter.

6. Figure Out How You Learn Best

Once you’ve established where you’ll learn, think about when and how you accomplish your best work. If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer. If the kids require your morning and evening attention, try to carve out a study session mid-day while they’re at school. Brew your usual cup of coffee, put on your go-to playlist, and do whatever you need to get into the zone and down to business.

Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

7. Actively participate.

Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project you’re working on. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification.

Make sure you are checking in as often as you can, too. The flexibility of online learning means that if you have 30 minutes before dinner plans, you could squeeze in a discussion response around your schedule. Set a goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.

And if you do feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.

8. Leverage your network.

Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

Build relationships with other students by introducing yourself and engaging in online discussion boards. Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Don’t be afraid to turn to them to create a virtual study group. Chances are good that they will appreciate it just as much as you will.

How Online Classes Work: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

Some online courses require students to attend and participate at set times through videoconferencing.

1. How is an online classroom typically structured?
This varies, experts say. But generally, online students regularly log in to a learning management system, or LMS, a virtual portal were students can view their syllabus and grades; contact professors, classmates and support services; access course materials; and monitor their progress on lessons.

Experts say prospective students should check whether a school’s LMS is accessible on mobile devices so they can complete coursework anytime, anywhere. They will also likely need a strong internet connection and any required software, such as a word processor.

2. Do students need to attend classes at specific times?
Online courses typically have an asynchronous, or self-paced, portion; students complete coursework on their own time but still need to meet weekly deadlines. Sticking with only this style of learning can be ideal for those who juggle work and family commitments and may not be able to log in at a certain hour, Harold Orndorff III, then assistant professor of political science at Daytona State College, told U.S. News in 2015.

Some online classes may also have a synchronous component, where students view live lectures online and sometimes participate in discussions through videoconferencing. Chip Paucek, CEO of 2U, a company that helps colleges and universities launch online graduate programs, told U.S. News that this allows learners to engage and build stronger relationships.

3. Do online courses have in-person components?
Some online classes may require students to attend a residency on the school’s campus before or during the program. The lengths and details of these requirements vary.

Students may complete team-building activities, network and attend informational sessions. Especially in health fields like nursing, certain online programs may require working in a clinical setting.

4. How do students interact in an online class?
If a course has a synchronous component or requires students to travel to campus, that’s a good way to get to know classmates, experts say. Students may otherwise communicate through discussion forums, social media and – particularly for group work – videoconferencing, as well as phone and email.

Online learners interact with professors in similar ways, though they may need to be more proactive than on-campus students to develop a strong relationship. That may involve introducing themselves to their instructor before classes start and attending office hours, if offered, Marian Stoltz-Loike, vice president of online education at Touro College in New York, wrote in a 2017 U.S. News blog post.

5.What is the typical workload for an online class?
Just like in traditional classes, this varies – but don’t expect your course to be easier just because it’s online. Many online learners say they spend 15 to 20 hours a week on coursework.

At Arizona State University’s online arm – ASU Online – students typically spend six hours a week on coursework for each credit they enroll in, Joe Chapman, director of online support services at the school, wrote in a 2015 U.S. News blog post.

6. How many weeks do online classes run?
While some online degree programs follow the traditional semester-based schedule, others divide the year into smaller terms, and graduation credit requirements may vary. ASU Online courses, for instance, are structured as seven-and-a-half week sessions rather than 14-week semesters.[ 

Sometimes students can choose the number of courses they take at one time, while in other programs, they must stick to a set curriculum road map as part of a cohort, experts say. Prospective students should determine whether the academic calendar is structured in a way that will enable them to balance work, school and family.

7. What are typical assignments in online courses?
These depend largely on the discipline. But in general, students should expect assignments that are similar to those in on-ground programs, such as research papers and proctored exams – in addition to online-specific assignments, such as responding to professor-posed questions in a discussion board.

An online course may also require group projects where students communicate virtually, as well as remote presentations. These can be challenging for online learners, who often live across various time zones,

8. How do students take proctored exams in online courses?
Not all online classes have proctore,d exams. But if they do, online students may need to visit a local testing site, with an on-site proctor. They may also take virtually monitored exams online, where a proctor watches via webcam or where computer software detects cheating by checking the test-takers’ screens.

9. What should students know before enrolling in an online course?
While the registration process for online and on-ground classes is often similar, prospective online students should review the course type and requirements before enrolling, Bradley Fuster, associate vice president of institutional effectiveness at SUNY Buffalo State, advised in a 2017 U.S. News blog post. They should also understand the requirements for dropping courses.

10. Are there ways to accelerate online degree completion?
In some cases, yes. For instance, in competency-based online learning, students move quickly through the material they already know and spend more time on unfamiliar topics. In some programs, students may also earn credits for past work or military experience.

Online courses explained

When you study online, you achieve the same qualification as someone studying in the classroom at a college, TAFE or university. But unlike courses delivered the conventional way, online courses allow you to study from anywhere, and choose when you want to fit study into your week.

Find out all you need to know about online courses, from the benefits of studying online through to student support and course delivery.

How are online courses delivered?

Online courses are delivered entirely online. As an online student, you’ll be able to log into an online learning system.

Through the online learning system you’ll receive all your study materials and instructions, and submit your assessments. You’ll also be involved in conversations with other students and your tutors through virtual classrooms and discussion boards.

You will be able to watch lectures, complete readings and participate in tutorials, just like an on-campus student. The difference is you’ll do this online, when it suits you.

Online courses explained

Will I ever need to visit a campus?

When you study a course that is 100% online, there will be no travel involved and you will never have to visit a campus. You’ll complete and submit all of your coursework online.

As an online student, you may still have the option to use the facilities available at your campus.

Some online courses may require you to sit an external exam which you will need to take at a designated location.

If you study a course that is delivered via a combination of online and on-campus learning – also known as ‘blended’ learning – you may need to attend some classes or workshops at a campus.

Depending on the course, you may also need to complete a work placement at a particular location.

What are the benefits of studying online?

  • You can get a qualification without having to take time off from work, go part-time or put your kids in child care.
  • You don’t need to live near a particular education institution that offers your preferred course – you can choose from a multitude of courses that are based across Australia.
  • You can study from anywhere with an internet connection – in your backyard or bedroom, on a train or at your local café.
  • You don’t necessarily need to be sitting at a computer to study. You can read course materials, watch podcasts and comment on forums from your tablet device or smart phone.
  • Rather than attending all classes at set times, you can study when it suits you. Online students can choose how they fit their study time around work, families and other things going on in their lives.
  • Many of SEEK Learning’s online courses can be studied at your own pace, and most have flexible enrolment dates, so you can get started right now.

Will I get to talk to other students in my online course?

Online courses are designed to encourage interaction and make you feel part of a learning community. Though you may not meet your teachers and classmates in person, you will be communicating with them regularly.

Some courses include group work, and tasks that encourage you to collaborate with other students online.

You can also contact education staff by phone or email at convenient times. They’ll answer any of your questions and give you the support you need to be a confident online learner.

What kind of support is available for online students?

If you’re studying with a provider that offers both on-campus and online study, you can usually access the same support services as on-campus students.

For example, when you study through Deakin University you can access support services via Deakin’s website, over the phone, on Skype, or in person if you are near a Deakin campus.

For other education providers, specialist online advisors can help you develop successful study skills, discuss your course direction, or provide technical assistance.

What’s the difference between online and distance learning?

Online courses can sometimes be called distance education courses. Some distance education courses can involve more hard copy materials and communication via post, but these days many distance education courses can be considered online courses.

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