What to Expect From an Online School or Distance Learning Program

Know What to Expect When Taking Online Courses and Learn how to be the most successful online student.

Know what to expect before you sign up to take courses from a college online so you can do well in your classes and get the most out of your education.

Almost every college in the U.S. has online courses/programs and yet many of these schools do nothing or very little to prepare students for just how different online learning can be.

online_class_girlSo, here are some tips for those interested in what is quickly becoming “traditional online learning.” In order to be successful in an online program, you need to:

  • Be self-motivated. You have to actively engage your professors, advisors, and classmates and you have to be able to work independently. Think about this as good training. After all, your supervisor will not call you in the morning to make sure you show up for work.
  • Possess self-discipline. Online learning takes a lot of time. Be sure to set aside the proper amount of time to dedicate to each of your courses each week. Remember, don’t take too many courses at one time because you will have a much greater quantity of work than you did in high school. Also, some online courses are shorter than a traditional 15-week semester, but they nevertheless cover the same amount of material, so expect double the workload. Be sure to log into your courses regularly and keep up with each week’s work.
  • Be dedicated to your studies. This will mean some sacrifices; plan your personal life accordingly. Make finishing your degree a priority.
  • Be adept at reading comprehension. College means a lot of reading and you will want to be an active reader. You’ll need to develop into someone who reads and takes notes and re-reads if necessary in order to be sure you understand the material. This applies to course materials but also to other communications from the University. For example, it is the student’s responsibility to read and understand the student handbook and all related policies and procedures; likewise, students are expected to read all assigned course materials including, but not limited to the course announcements, the syllabus, forums, messages from your professors as well as any other email communications from the university.
  • Communicate clearly in writing. You may not think that every course is an English course, but remember that clearly communicating your ideas and your knowledge is the main way your professors will be able to measure if you have successfully understood the course materials. If you struggle in this area don’t despair, seek tutoring or mentoring help. Remember writing well is a skill, and just like any other skill, whether it be playing the guitar or learning a language, the only way to get better is to practice. There is no magic formula. Good writers are not born that way, they write, rewrite, and rewrite and then rewrite some more—that is how you will improve!
  • Be responsible for your decisions. For example, it is your responsibility to work with your advisor and to seek guidance.  You advisor will help you determine your course progression. Before registering for a course, check in with your advisor.  Likewise if you are confused about an assignment, ask your professor.
  • Communicate. Be sure to let your advisor and your faculty member know if something comes up that may impact your course performance.  Be sure to check your email regularly for critical announcements from the university and be sure your files are up-to-date, e.g. personal email address, phone number, etc., and let your disability office know if you need any special academic arrangements.
  • Be academically honest. You must abide by the ethical guidelines that underpin academic inquiry. This means no cheating. Cheating includes claiming credit for others’ work as well as plagiarism, so be sure to cite your sources and learn how to quote appropriately. Ensuring you don’t violate your university’s academic honesty policy is your responsibility!
  • Be committed to learning. Successful undergraduates demonstrate a genuine desire to expand their own knowledge. Your intellectual curiosity may be your most important asset.Be Smart About How You Come Across In A Virtual Settingonline-learning
    Since most of your communication with instructors and classmates will occur online, you have to know how to get your ideas across effectively without using hand signals, facial expressions, or tones of voice. Proofread assignments, messages, or discussion posts before your send them order to avoid mistakes that could cause confusion and misunderstanding. Choose your words carefully, as your tone online may seem harsher than you intend it to be. Avoid using all capital letters all the time, as most people associate this with yelling.Self Motivation Is Key
    Online courses are a change from the on-campus experience because it’s up to you to motivate yourself to complete coursework. Without an instructor looking over your shoulder (literally), you may find yourself losing track of what you need to accomplish. Online instructors are available to answer your questions, but they can’t be sure that you’re spending as much time as you should be on the class.Schedule your time wisely and think of an online class like any other. Set aside a specific time each day designated to coursework. Treating your courses as seriously as you would a full-time job may ensure your assignments get done and you’re learning what’s needed for the exams.Don’t Be Discouraged
    For some students it takes time to get adjusted to online courses, but you can use the skills you develop during your first  quarters or semesters to learn how to successfully manage your schedule. Discover which methods work for you so you’ll have a guideline to follow next time. Online classes may be difficult to get used to, but once you do, they are a great modality for people who require flexible course offerings.

    Similarities Between Online School and Traditional Schools

    Now that we’ve gone over the main differences between online learning and campus classes, it’s time to talk about the similarities. This is an often overlooked, yet important topic in discussions on online school. Just like any other class, at the start of your online course, you should expect to receive a full course outline, detailing quiz exam and assignment due dates. Your course should be just as challenging as its counterpart in a traditional school.

    Distance learning online is equal to learning in an on-site course, providing the same quality, amount of credits and learning outcomes. Online teachers are expected to deliver clear and concise directions with each phase of the course. Online students should always know exactly what is expected of them including, what assignments to read, what to do with the information and how to submit assignments.

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