Online classes are typically a mix of video recordings or live lectures supplemented with readings and assessments that students can complete independently. But nothing is typical about education in 2020 as the coronavirus has forced a sudden migration to online learning with little time to prepare for it.
As the pandemic accelerated, colleges shifted into emergency mode, shutting down campuses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – and moving academic life online. Education experts anticipate more online classes this fall.
For students – whether incoming first-year students, seasoned seniors or returning adult learners – here is an overview of what to know about and expect from online classes:
Here are How To Online Classes Work In 2020
How Is an Online Classroom Typically Structured?
The structure of an online classroom varies, experts say. But generally, online students regularly log in to a learning management system, or LMS, a virtual portal where they can view the syllabus and grades; contact professors, classmates and support services; access course materials; and monitor their progress on lessons.
Experts say prospective students should check whether a school’s LMS is accessible on mobile devices so they can complete coursework anytime, anywhere. They will also likely need a strong internet connection and any required software, such as a word processor.
One important distinction that experts note is that the forced shift to remote instruction that colleges saw this spring due to the coronavirus is not typical of online education.
Do Students Need to Attend Classes at Specific Times?
Online classes typically have an asynchronous, or self-paced, portion. Students complete coursework independently but still need to meet weekly deadlines, a format that offers flexibility for students.
Some online courses may also have a synchronous component, where students view live lectures online and sometimes participate in discussions through videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom. The latter model is the move many professors have made during the pandemic.
Do Online Classes Have In-Person Components?
Some online classes may require students to attend a residency on the school’s campus before or during the program. The lengths and details of these requirements vary.
Students may complete team-building activities, network and attend informational sessions. Especially in health fields like nursing, certain online programs may require working in a clinical setting.
How Do Students Interact in an Online Course?
If a course has a synchronous component or requires students to travel to campus, that’s a good way to get to know classmates, experts say. Students may otherwise communicate through discussion forums, social media and – particularly for group work – videoconferencing and phone and email.
Online learners interact with professors in similar ways, though they may need to be more proactive than on-campus students to develop a strong relationship.
What Is the Typical Workload for an Online Course?
Like in traditional classes, the workload varies – but don’t expect your course to be easier just because it’s online. Many online learners say they spend 15 to 20 hours a week on coursework. That workload, of course, may vary between full-time and part-time students. A lighter course load likely means less study.
How Many Weeks Do Online Classes Run?
While some online degree programs follow the traditional semester-based schedule, others divide the year into smaller terms, and graduation credit requirements may vary. ASU Online courses, for instance, are structured as seven-and-a-half week sessions rather than 14-week semesters.
Sometimes students can choose the number of courses they take at one time, while in other programs, they must stick to a set curriculum road map as part of a cohort, experts say. Prospective students should determine whether the academic calendar is structured to enable them to balance work, school and family. They should also know that academic calendars vary by school.
What Are Typical Assignments in Online Classes?
Online course assignments depend largely on discipline. But in general, students should expect assignments similar to those in on-ground programs, such as research papers and proctored exams, in addition to online-specific assignments such as responding to professor-posed questions in a discussion board.
An online course may also require group projects where students communicate virtually, as well as remote presentations.
How Do Students Take Proctored Exams in Online Classes?
Not all online classes have proctored exams. However, online students may need to visit a local testing site with an on-site proctor if they do. They may also take virtually monitored exams online, where a proctor watches via webcam or where computer software detects cheating by checking test-takers’ screens.
What Should Students Know Before Enrolling in an Online Course?
Prospective students looking for how to start an online college should visit the admissions page for the school. They should also understand the requirements for the degree program of interest, considering that there may be a higher threshold for certain majors than general admissions, experts recommend.
While online and on-campus classes’ registration process is often similar, prospective online students should review the course type and requirements before enrolling, experts say. They should also understand the requirements for dropping classes.
Are There Ways to Accelerate Online Degree Completion?
In some cases, it’s possible to earn a degree faster; for instance, in competency-based online learning, students move quickly through the material they already know and may spend more time on unfamiliar topics.
In some programs, students may also earn credits for past work or military experience. Some universities even offer a subscription-based model, allowing students to sign up for various self-paced classes over several months.
Source: | US News