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How Do Online Classes Work: What To Expect


Online education continues to grow in popularity. As technology innovates and accessibility widens, the method of learning from a distance with nothing more than an internet connection gains more adopters. Perhaps you’ve been questioning, “How do online classes work?” as you consider if online education is the right choice for you. If you’ve ever asked, “Is online college a good idea?” we will tell you all the reasons why the answer may be a resounding yes!

Woman learning online with a laptop and coffee
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

What Is Online Learning?

Online learning is exactly what it sounds like — education that takes place over the internet. Online learning is also known as e-learning and is a form of distance learning. This term encompasses all education that takes place outside the traditional classroom setting.

How Are Online Classes Structured?

Like any educational setting, the structure can vary because of the institution, professors, and students’ learning style.

However, online classes typically adhere to a set-up by which student log onto a learning management system (LMS). Within their LMS, they have a dashboard where they can view their classes, syllabi, and grades. Within the system, they can also access all course materials, contact their professors, and communicate with peers via forums or chats.

Some online education institutions, like UoPeople, have ensured that their LMS is mobile-friendly. All you need to get started on your educational journey is a strong internet connection and a device that connects to the internet.

Here’s a look at the typical structure of online classes and their elements:

  • Logging On: Students log into their school’s LMS.
  • Course Material: Students access their course material, including lectures and reading. Either your professor has recorded lectures or you can attend them live. Like in a traditional classroom, it’s best to take notes on course material.
  • Assignments: The LMS organizes and stores assignments. Some assignments may be done online whereas others could require offline work with submission. Students are still expected to submit assignments by their deadlines.
  • Discussion: The majority of online classes require that students take part in discussions with other students and possibly also the professor. This could involve posting questions or answering them in discussion forms. It could also require chats with peers.

Do Students Need To Attend Classes At Specific Times?

Online learning may be asynchronous or synchronous. Here’s what this means:

  • Asynchronous: Lectures are self-paced and pre-recorded. Students have flexibility when to log on and learn. However, even if lectures aren’t required to be live, there still are likely to be deadlines for assignments and exams.
  • Synchronous: Some professors require that students log-on live and take part in active discussions at specific times.

Are There In-Person Requirements?

The answer here is dependent on the type of institution you enroll in.

Some schools have hybrid education in which there is a requirement to attend the campus.

However, others may be entirely online. UoPeople is an example of a 100% online institution for higher education.

How Will I Interact With My Peers?

For hybrid programs, you can interact with peers in person and on-campus. But for online programs, you have a right to question how you will be able to engage with peers. Just like social media has made it possible to connect with people around the world, online learning has opened the door to this possibility as well.

You can connect with peers in forums and chat rooms within the LMS. Or, you can take it upon yourself to connect outside of the school portal via online, email, text messaging, and video conferencing!

Are Online Courses Harder Than Traditional Classes?

Choosing to study online versus at a traditional institution shouldn’t be a consideration of difficulty level because neither one is easier or harder than the other. They are just inherently very different formats. It’s a personal preference and one of circumstance for who is better suited to attend online classes.

The truth is that online courses may not be harder, but they could require more self-motivation and pacing than a traditional class. This is because you won’t have a set schedule for school. Instead, you’ll have to manage your own time accordingly.

The workload tends to be the same for both online and traditional classes in terms of earning credits to graduate. However, online college definitely is a more affordable option compared to attending on campus.

6 Things To Know Before Starting Online Classes

1. Don’t Have To Be A Tech Whiz

Online colleges are not just meant for tech-savvy students. Schools have taken a lot of time and effort to create online systems that are easy to use and navigate for students of all ages and technical backgrounds. That being said, you will need certain technology to succeed, like a strong and reliable internet connection for starters.

2. It’s Not An Easy Way Out

If you’re thinking of taking online classes just because it may be the easy way out, think again! As mentioned above, you’ll have to responsibly manage your schedule and time to do well.

3. Online Can Benefit You

It’s been shown that students tend to do the same or even better in online classes as in traditional settings. The quality of education is equivalent, but the way in which it is delivered tends to prove beneficial to students. You can rewatch lectures, attend lectures at your optimal times, and have the flexibility to balance your own schedule.

4. Peer Interaction Is Possible

Everyone likes to talk about the experience of college and the social atmosphere. Going to school online doesn’t deny you the possibility to connect with people online around the world. In fact, it may broaden the possibilities since there are no geographic barriers.

5. Not All Programs Are The Same

One online college doesn’t fit all! Be sure to check in on structures and course offerings before applying to a school. You’ll also want to look for the very important feature of being accredited so that your degree is recognized and respected by employers and other institutions of higher education.

6. Be Excited!

Online classes have literally changed the lives of millions of students. Once you’re enrolled, you will be able to connect with peers and professors from around the world. You can also revel in the freedom and flexibility to approach school in the best way that suits your needs. That’s something to be excited about!

A Little Information About UoPeople

As an online institution for higher education, we are a bit biased towards online classes in that we absolutely love them! We started our institution to be able to provide education to people around the world at a limited cost (we are tuition-free) and with a focus on accessibility (simply log on from anywhere with an internet connection).

Here’s a little bit about what UoPeople offers:

  • Programs: We offer eight degree-granting programs that span varying levels from undergraduate to graduate degrees. Our programs include: Health Science, Computer Science, Education, and Business Administration.
  • Structure: Students benefit from complete flexibility in that professors from top institutions around the world have created lectures that can be accessed at any time.
  • Pedagogical Model: Students are encouraged to work and grow together with their peers. The pedagogical model is supported by class forums in which students can raise questions and share ideas. Instructors moderate class forums. Peer-to-peer learning supports diverse perspectives and provides valuable insight for problem-solving collaboratively.
  • Diverse Student Body: UoPeople has provided students from over 200 countries and territories with higher education. Our diverse student body surpasses borders and seas to connect students from around the world who share a common goal — attaining higher education!
Group of women at table with computers and notebook
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The Bottom Line

Now you know everything about how online classes work. While it’s not exactly the “easy way out,” it can be considered the smartest and most affordable way to attain a quality education. For some, online education is the only option given circumstances in life, and for others, online classes is the optimal choice for flexibility, affordability, and an unparalleled experience.

University of the People