“Laptop Keyboard” by garycycles8, Licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Happy New Year!

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a fantastic year, especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start your education! Online learning has changed dramatically over the past few years. More online schools have popped up, and more and more established universities and colleges are expanding their online offerings. As a prospective online student, you have a ton of options!

Choice is a wonderful thing, but you want to make sure you understand the different learning formats. Not all online courses are created equal. If you want to increase your chances of academic success, you need to make sure you choose a delivery format that suits your learning style and your lifestyle. Here are the most common options:

Asynchronous Courses with Weekly Deadlines

I teach asynchronous courses, and I love them! An asynchronous course is broken up into several units or learning modules. Each module has a deadline, and students are expected to complete the reading, discussions, and assignments by the end of each deadline. These types of courses frequently contain discussion forums or other interactive components.  Some schools even have a minimum participation requirement. For example, I taught at one institution that expected students to post at least three days a week.

Classes with weekly deadlines are great if you are a self-directed learner, but one who appreciates interacting with other students in the discussions. They are also great for procrastinators who need the pressure of frequent deadlines!

Asynchronous Courses with Self-Paced Modules

If you’re a solitary learner and you prefer to work at your own pace, you may want to sign up for an asynchronous course with self-paced modules. Asynchronous self-paced courses offer students incredible flexibility and freedom. The course material is broken up into modules, but usually, these modules don’t include interactive elements. Also, you are free to complete the work at your leisure. There’s just one deadline – the final course deadline. These courses are great for the student who has only a few days a week to devote to school work.

Self-paced courses are designed for extremely independent and disciplined learners. If you need a lot of direction and guidance, you may want to look at a course with some synchronous components.

Asynchronous/Synchronous Hybrids

Some courses contain synchronous and asynchronous elements. These courses may give you some flexibility in terms of when you complete the readings and the written assignments, but they may require you to attend live lectures, group discussions, and presentations. If you have some flexibility in your schedule and you like working with others, this may be the perfect option!

Completely Synchronous Courses

If you crave a more traditional learning experience, you may want to sign up for a synchronous course. A synchronous course requires the instructor and the students to be online at the same time. If you choose a synchronous course, make sure you can make it to all the class meetings.  You may be penalized if you miss too many classes!

2018 is a great year to learn something new and/or build upon existing skills. Make sure you do your research and pick an online course that works for you!