Online college classes don’t differ from traditional classrooms in the general way they attempt to teach. They will some sort of curriculum from which you will learn. You will have some sort of assignments that help you apply what you are learning. And they will have some sort of examination method where ideally you learn how well the lessons are sinking in.

There are some other differences however that you will want to know about before jumping in. You want to make sure you’re willing to do what’s required to get your education and not knowing some of these differences can make things much harder to complete the classes you register for.

Many degrees offered by the leading online universities such as DeVry, Kaplan University or Capella University offer completely online college courses. Some college programs you run into however will be a mixture of both online classes and online classes. There are benefits to having partial time in person, but there may also be disadvantages. A classroom setting is ideal for human interaction, face to face discussions and such. They can also be a great way for teachers to identify students who are struggling.

As dual programs that offer a little online and a little face to face are not located everywhere you may find that you have to travel much farther than you can afford or anticipated. Fully online college solutions allow the most flexibility, but miss out on the face to face. If this is not something you need, the wholly online classes may be for you.

Next, you’ll want to look at the teaching method. Is it a set of slideshows you have to finish and answer questions on or is a program where your teacher will be involved heavily? If you are looking for a little more structure in your educational process, the instructor lead path may be the right one for you. However, if you are good at creating your own structure and prefer the flexibility you may be right for a self-paced course.

When a teacher is leading the class, it’s much the same as a traditional classroom setup. The teacher determines the timeline for the class including assignment due dates, test formats and ultimately how you are graded. If this is the case you’ll most likely be in a class where everyone is getting the same instruction, but progressing at the same pace. Keeping on task is easier for those who have a tendency to put things off till the last minute. Deadlines help keep them up to pace & instructor interaction can help motivate and resolve concerns.

On the other hand, when someone takes a self-paced online class they can learn at their own pace. Sometimes that is much faster than the instructor led way, other times it’s much slower either due to time they have available or the extra time they need for the lessons to sink in.

There are other course structures that you will want to consider, but noting whether it’s all online or a mixed online and offline course and how involved the teacher is going to be in the class can help you pick an online college that’s right for you.

Posted: 3/28/11 for 4/8/2011

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