If you’re planning to attend a 2-year school or certification program, the odds are high that you will be taking some or all of your courses online. If you’re leaning toward a 4-year school, you will probably still take at least one online class. And even though all Florida high school students are required to take a class online, your college and professional courses will feel a lot different. For one thing, you’re pretty much on your own in terms of budgeting your time and navigating the class. Let’s talk about how to make it work for you.
First, there are some terms you need to know:
• Face-to-face – You’ll meet together as a class with the professor at least once per week in a physical classroom or lab.
• Synchronous – The class will still meet at the same time(s) each week, but those sessions are virtual, hosted through Zoom or Meet or similar.
• Asynchronous – The class is fully online, and while you may have deadlines for specific assignments, you will not have any required live meetings together with the full class.
Second, online classes offer a lot of flexibility. They’re a great option for students with busy or unpredictable schedules. If you work different hours each week, for example, an asynchronous class might be really helpful to you, as your study time can accommodate your shifts. If you live far from campus or have other travel restrictions, both online formats can free up your travel time for study or work.
The downside to both online options is that instructors often have to make up for the lack of face-to-face instruction with additional assignments. It takes longer to listen to a lecture video, take a quiz on the reading, and post to the discussion board than it does to sit in a classroom once a week. If the class requires group work, know that it can be harder to get in touch with classmates to get the work done. Plan ahead for this.
Third, you have to be super self-motivated and proactive. Read the syllabus. Check your email and LMS inbox every single day. Read all announcements and discussion board posts. No LMS provides everything you need to stay on top of your work, so it’s important to use a separate calendar, planner, or app (try Evernote or MyHomework).
Reaching out to your instructor directly may be the slowest way to get information, so you should rely on yourself, your classmates, and Google to get answers fast. Instructors of online courses take great pains to make sure everything you need is available and posted, and they’ll expect you to use these tools and materials.
That said, don’t hesitate to email your instructor if something is missing, unposted, or unclear. They will have no idea what you are and aren’t “getting” unless you let them know. Ask for help when you need it — especially if you are eligible for accommodations!
With a little extra effort and focus, anyone can be successful in an online course.