Online classes offer flexibility and convenience, but make sure they’re right for you
What do students like most about online courses?
The overwhelming majority agree that it’s convenience that makes online courses attractive. The ability to study at a time and place of their choosing, to fit school into busy and changing personal schedules—these are the reasons people study online.
Online courses can save commuting time and expense, and allow students to spend more time with their families, and online courses allow students to learn at their own pace. Also students who wouldn’t usually participate in a regular classroom setting may be quite vocal in an online chat or discussion group.
Students who have taken online courses often miss the personal interaction with classmates and the immediate feedback from instructors that comes with traditional courses.
And students shouldn’t enroll in an online class thinking it’s going to be easy. An online course may require more time than a traditional class.
There is also much more individual responsibility placed on students who take courses online. But students who are self-motivated and have a good understanding of computers should do just fine. And because much of the course content is text-based, online courses may not the best option for students who don’t like to read.
Hybrid: The best of both worlds?
Students who are considering an online class should also consider a new course format, often termed “hybrid” or “blended,” which combines traditional on-campus classes with extensive use of online resources. That way, students can gain experience with online learning but have the security of the traditional classroom.
Usually hybrid classes will meet on alternate weeks and the majority of the coursework will be online. The format works well for students who enjoy independent but guided study.
A hybrid course with extensive use of Web resources can promote a successful, active learning experience. Give a hybrid class a try and see if it works for you. You will be better positioned to evaluate if you would be a successful online learner.
TCC’s Center for eLearning provides alternatives to traditional classroom instruction in a variety of ways. TCC eLearning classes are academically equivalent to traditional, face-to-face classes but have fewer, or in some cases, no class meetings.
TCC participates in Quality Matters (QM), a faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of its online and blended courses.
The Center for eLearning provides a questionnaire on its website, www.tcc.edu/elearning, so you can see whether online or blended classes are for you. Or take the quick quiz below:
Are online classes for you?
1. Feeling that I am part of a physical classroom setting is:
a. very necessary.
b. somewhat important.
c. very important.
2. I generally:
a. get things done ahead of time.
b. need reminders, but get things done on time.
c. put things off until the last minute.
3. I prefer to communicate:
a. in writing.
b. in person, but I’m comfortable expressing myself in writing.
c. in person, face-to-face. I do not like to write.
4. I would classify myself as:
a. a good reader, able to understand most text material without help.
b. an average reader. Sometimes I need help understanding the material.
c. a slow reader. I often need help understanding text material.
5. I think face-to-face classroom
a. is helpful, but discussion via email is equally engaging.
b. is sometimes helpful.
c. is vital.
6. I generally prefer to:
a. figure out instructions myself.
b. try to follow instructions on my own, then ask for help as needed.
c. have instructions explained or demonstrated to me.
7. When faced with new technology such as gadgets and computer software I usually:
a. look forward to learning new skills.
b. feel some apprehension, but try it anyway.
c. avoid working with new technology.
8. Taking into account my professional and personal schedule, I have:
a. less time for an online course than an on-campus course.
b. about the same amount of time for an online course as an on-campus class.
c. maybe even more time for an online course than an on-campus one since I don’t have to commute.
9. If I have to go to campus to take exams or complete work I:
a. would have difficulty going to campus at any time.
b. will need to make an evening or weekend appointment.
c. can make arrangements to do so almost anytime.
One points for each “a” answer.
Two points for each “b” answer.
Three points for each “c” answer.
21 or more points: An online course would probably be a good fit for you.
15 to 20 points: An online course could work for you, but you should be prepared to make a few adjustments in your schedule and study habits to succeed. A hybrid course may be a good first step.
14 or fewer points: An online course is probably not the best way for you to learn right now. Your chance for success would be better if you enrolled in a traditional on-campus course.