Taking online college classes for a lot of individuals who are trying to balance school, home life, and work all at the same time seems like the greatest option. Envisions of self-study, hopping online to take a little quiz, and sifting through a textbook without a professor hovering over your shoulder while you watch TV just seems like a total win-win to get you through your college experience without all the hassle of showing up to class. As a current online college student, let me shed a little light on taking college classes online to hopefully help others decide more accurately if online college is right for them.
I am a part-time college student with my local community college, and I chose to take all my current classes online to help me transition into college life a little easier and better balance my work schedule and be home when my fiance is off from his long bouts on the oil rig. As opposed to spending nearly every day in class at both the local college and the main branch of my college an hour away (not all my classes are available at my local branch 10 minutes away), I figured online courses would give me more options for school without all the driving and stress of making time just to show up for 2 different classes on the same day over 3 hours apart from each other, and not even at the same college branch. I can just take all my classes online, saving time driving between two college branches an hour apart, and only show up on campus to take final exams and major tests every other month or so.
What I did NOT anticipate is how much time I would be spending on online classes. I am taking 3 classes, a math course, English course, and microeconomics course, and each course demands about 2 hours of online study and review. My math course requires book homework as well, that I have to complete on top of online quizzes and tests, and I have to take in my book homework every time a chapter final is to be done at campus. If I miss a single online quiz in one week (and there are several done weekly) I risk being dropped from the class. In total, the amount of time I spend on online study and review and book work as well from my textbooks equals between 9 and 10 hours daily of study and homework for my 3 classes. Online courses are NOT independent study.
You have to follow the 15-page syllabus to a “T” every single week. Sure, your professor emails you your weekly syllabus at the beginning of the semester, so you know what to anticipate, but jumping from your online coursework (which typically encompasses a website that coincides with your textbook) to your textbook and trying to remember where you left off can be mind boggling. Organization is key, as if you miss one single quiz or review, your professor can see it online, and you can get dinged for it. Everything has to be accounted for, since it shows up as incomplete in your course website account. It’s not like sleeping in class and hoping to pass the final. You have to do it all when you’re studying online, and take in notes and homework to campus to prove you haven’t skipped anything.
You have to listen to a lot of stupid tutorials, too. Each of the websites that I have to do my online coursework with bother me with mundane tutorials that I can’t skip or else it shows up as incomplete in my studies. You can’t skip the boring stuff that you already know (like my English course explaining what a period is- sheesh!) so you spend a lot of your time simply rolling your eyes and having to wait to move onto the next section of the course.
However, you can jump ahead in your studies, as well. Math in particular is a real bah-humbug for me, so I like to complete a week’s worth of studies in one day so I can focus on English and microeconomics more fully. Then, once I have done my other classes that are easier and have them caught up, I go back to math and start a new week. So long as I can maintain a high grade, my professor doesn’t care how quickly I move forward. That’s the glory of online work- you get to have that self-study and divert your time more successfully.
While daunting, I love my online classes, and this is why- if I want to take a week off of studying to take a road trip or just focus on my home life, I simply do all the week’s syllabus requirements for my classes in advance, putting me a week ahead of schedule. My professors are aware that I have fulfilled my week’s quizzes and reviews when they examine my website accounts, and I can take a breather for a minute. However, it’s easy to get behind by doing this more than once, as by jumping too far ahead in the syllabus you can get confused at to where you left off last and get out of the swing of routine. But if there are no finals due in the week that I plan to take a break and I am positive that I have completed everything I needed to up to that point, I get to take that leisure. You don’t get to skip class when you go to school on campus, but if you go online you can reward yourself with a break now and then.
Online college classes all boil down to how self-driven you are. You have to anticipate being glued to your computer and your textbooks for several hours a day, and you have to be meticulous in how you follow your syllabus. One missed online assignment (even a tutorial) can lead to a 0 grade, and your professor still requires bookwork that you have to take into campus with you for finals and tests. It’s not an easy ride to take classes online, but for some people, it’s a greater option to get their college education. When I become a full-time student in the fall, I will no longer do my classes online, but for now, it’s excellent. I love it.