Maybe you need the flexibility online classes offer. Maybe you don’t have reliable transportation to class. Whatever the reason, you are considering taking classes over the internet. Online classes are becoming more popular every year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011 approximately 20% of all college students took classes online. As a faculty member of a community college who works with students online and a student in online classes myself, I’ve seen many students become successful, even those who started off unsure of themselves. Before taking the plunge into a new mode of learning, here are five questions you should ask yourself.
- Are you self-motivated?
Unlike traditional classes, you will be on your own to keep track of important due dates and keep up with the coursework. Assignments are usually made for the entire week in one post, and you may not hear from your professor again until the next week. You should have a planner (It could be a booklet, an app on your phone, or a program on your computer) and keep it up to date.
Are you a strong reader?
Some online classes take advantage of videos, but, usually, you will learn by reading. Be prepared to go through at least a chapter per week in addition to any notes or lectures (usually documents) that your professor posts on the course site. You may also need to spend time reading through other students’ posts on a discussion board and responding to them. Based on how strong a reader you are, you should know about how much time you’ll need to dedicate to each class you take online per week.
Do you have reliable access to the technology you’ll need?
You may not need to own your own computer, but you will need to have access to one, either from a friend or possibly at your local public library or even on campus. Likewise, it would be best to have high speed internet, either cable or DSL. You may need to take your laptop to a public place that has Wi-Fi if your connection at home is unreliable or especially slow. You will also need to have some sort of office suite installed on your computer. Microsoft Office (a limited time trial version comes installed on most new computers) and Open Office (a free downloadable office suite) are the two most popular at my school.
Are you comfortable using that technology?
You will need to be able to use the internet (probably a given since you’re reading this article) and be able to use your office suite to type papers, create spreadsheets, etc. Depending on what classes you take, you may need to use additional software, but odds are they’ll teach you how to use it in class. If you’re not as comfortable with this technology as you would like to be, then be sure to spend some more time on the computer before your classes begin.
Do you know where you can go to get help?
Many students who do not do well in online classes do not know where to go with their questions. Before classes start, you should research your school to see if any tutoring is available and to find the contact information for the school’s tech support. Once classes begin, be sure to print out the syllabi for all your courses so you will have your professors’ contact information in case you run into any trouble.
Asking yourself questions like these will help you get ready for your classes. Even if you weren’t able to answer “yes” to all of them, you’ll know what to work on before the term begins. Online courses can be intimidating to new students, but with a little knowledge of what to expect, you can reach your academic goals.