Online courses have several advantages when compared to the in-class versions. Do you enjoy working late at night? Are you an early bird? Do you work shifts? Have small children? Online education courses offer you great flexibility in terms of when and how long you study. However, online courses are as rigorous as their classroom based counterparts and this requires students to be self-disciplined and organized. Here are some things to consider:
- Time requirements: You should be prepared to devote a minimum of 6 hours per week to your course. This includes time to read course materials, research and clarify your understanding of key concepts, participate in online threaded discussion boards, create assignments, and studying for tests.
- Scheduling: Although you have flexibility in the day and time that you access your course site, you should plan on logging on a minimum of three times per week when discussion boards are active. A standard requirement for participating in a discussion is that you create an initial posting on a topic determined by your teacher at the beginning of the week, usually within three days of the start of the week. You should then follow up with a minimum of two comments on your class mates’ discussion board postings, furthering the exploration of the topic. Ensure that you are able to be online, working on your course, a minimum of three times each and every week.
- Communication: The online environment relies heavily on text. This means that you must be comfortable communicating with your class mates and your teacher by writing your thoughts, questions, experiences, etc. in emails and discussion forums. You may have the opportunity to interact via web conferencing, audio podcasts, or other tools, but not all courses will utilize these tools. ALL courses will have email capability available to you.
- Being proactive: You must be comfortable actively seeking out help when you need it. Remember that your teacher has no way of knowing when you have questions, concerns, or are having technical difficulties.
- Environment: If you do not have a computer at home available to you, you must ensure that you have regular access to a computer, and that the computer has the minimum technical capabilities as specified by your program. This may include software such as Microsoft Office, hardware such as a printer, and a reliable internet connection. You should also consider factors such as whether or not you have a quiet area to work in, how much uninterrupted time you have available, and when you will do the reading and research your course allows.