How Online Classes Work

How Online Classes Work

Thanks to high-speed Internet, faster computers, and incredibly smart software, you can now earn a college degree from virtually anywhere in the world. More and more schools now offer distance-learning programs at every educational level, from associate to doctoral. The demand is there, and schools across the globe are responding.

But many students out there are a bit skeptical about e-learning. And that’s understandable, given the newness of online education. However, with technology at a premium, there’s no need to second-guess. Earning a degree online is both valuable and convenient, not to mention just as effective as the traditional model.

So how does it all work, one might ask? We’ve put together a brief overview of what an online class is like to help you better understand the e-learning experience.

What to Expect

Once enrolled in an accredited online college or university, you’ll be guided through your courses by your instructors. You’ll receive all the information you need, from course details, pace expectations, and required materials. Students will also be provided information on how to log-in and navigate the course space.

But besides email, how do instructors interact and communicate with online students? Blackboard and other course management software make it easy for teachers to post announcements, conduct lectures, and upload tests and quizzes.

As an online student, you’ll be required to participate and successfully complete all assignments. Taking classes online does not mean you procrastinate or take it easy. Online courses require the same dedication, participation, and commitment to learning as on-campus courses:

  • You’ll be expected to log into your classes frequently. Since you are not required to meet once or twice a week in a classroom, instructors will expect students to log on as much as possible to stay on top of their studies.
  • Just like a traditional class, you’ll be expected to complete assignments and quizzes according to the course schedule.
  • Many online classes require students to engage in discussion forums to connect with other classmates. Discussion forums are often moderated by the instructor and are an integral part of your online course experience. Take full advantage of these forums. Not only will you be exposed to a multitude of perspectives, but you’ll almost certainly make friends and have fun doing it.

Know Your Tools

As you will obviously be working a lot with a computer, it’s important to understand the basics of how the machine works. While you don’t need to be a computer whiz, knowing basic programs is a must. Hardware and software requirements will vary by school, but here are a few guidelines of how to be prepared.

  1. First and foremost, own a computer, laptop, or notebook that’s in great working condition. No tablets or smartphones.

  2. Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection, i.e., don’t siphon off the cafe next door.

  3. On that same note, find out the contact information for the school’s technical support. Know what to do if your power goes out or you lose a connection in the middle of a test.

  4. Learn the basic programs of your computer and have the most up to date versions of your preferred internet browsers (Firefox, Chrome, IE, etc.) and word processing software (Microsoft Word, most likely). It wouldn’t hurt to make sure Flash and Java are updated as well.

  5. Know the basics of computer language. Learn keyboard shortcuts. Know the difference between .pdf and .txt.

  6. You must have an active and up to date email account. This seems obvious, but if you still have an AOL account, it’s definitely time for an upgrade.

Keys to Success

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As a college student, it’s important that you set goals for yourself and stick to them, regardless if you’re enrolled in an online program or a face-to-face one. Setting goals keeps you on top of your game and online programs are just as rigorous as the traditional versions. Make it a habit to log on each day to ensure you know what’s expected of you.

If you have a hard time staying organized, how about keeping an online calendar? Gmail offers a great, easy-to-use online calendar that allows users to create reminders. The aforementioned Blackboard and other course management software offer a number of online tools including a calendar and a grade book to help you keep tabs on assignments and other important information.

It’s also essential to take full advantage of all the resources and programs available to students. Some online schools offer clubs and organizations of all kinds. Student government, foreign-language clubs, and other networks provide students an opportunity to engage in academic discussions and participate in activities concerning a broad range of topics. Stay involved and stay engaged! You never know who you might meet and connect with!


After you complete your online degree, it’s time to use it to find a job in your field. As mentioned in the intro, many students might still be skeptical about online education; this thought can unfortunately extend to employers as well. In a perfect world, an accredited degree from an online school should be no different than one from a traditional school. The reality is that it is difficult to measure the two against each other, due to the newness of online education.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for the online degree though! After you complete the degree, you’ll know how much hard work, patience, and self-discipline it took to achieve it. Those are three qualities that any employer would be looking for no matter what the field. Be prepared as you go into a job interview with detailing how you maybe struggled with some of your courses or overcame obstacles. Be confident that your online degree is just as important as a traditional one, and use your new-found knowledge to assure your future employer.

Choosing to attend college is a big decision and one that requires careful thought and consideration. If you want to earn your degree online, it’s important to know the ins and outs of distance learning to ensure it’s the right fit for you. If you’re still unsure, that’s okay. We can help. Our site is loaded with informative material about online schools, what to look for, and how to apply. Take a look around the site, including our blog, and feel free to contact us with other questions.

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