How Do Online College Classes Work?

Before you commit yourself to taking an online course or enrolling in an online school, you'll need to first understand how online college classes work. While many elements of an online college class are alike those of a typical, campus-based course, many elements are completely different. First, distance learning occurs entirely over the Internet. This means that all of your contact with your instructors and classmates will occur over email or through a classroom chat room or discussion board. Your classroom will occur through some form of online database that allows instructors to post reading materials, assignments, and discussion questions.


There are certain things you'll need in order to effectively participate in an online classroom. First, you'll need a computer with a recent operating system. The type of computer you'll need will vary depending on the program you're entering. For example, while most schools use PC based programs, many graphic design schools require that their students have a Macintosh. You'll also need certain software on your computer, such as a word processing program, a file reader, and an Internet explorer. You're probably going to need some form of high-speed Internet access, such as cable or DSL. Dial-up just isn't going to work when you need to upload and download large files. Finally, you'll need an email account, though many schools will provide one for you.


If you are not comfortable with working on a computer, you may want to rethink your decision to enroll in an online school. Because all of your work is done on the computer, you're going to struggle more with basic requirements than someone who's comfortable with computer applications. Taking an online college class is hard enough without struggling with computer nuisances at the same time.


Your homework assignments and tests will either be uploaded to the instructor through the classroom database or emailed to them. Generally, students in online colleges do not need to be in the classroom at any designated time. Rather, they simply do their work whenever they find the time in their schedule. However, this does not necessarily mean that all of the work is completed at whatever pace you're comfortable with -- you'll still have deadlines to abide with. Finally, most online schools have online libraries that students are able to access from home, so you should have all of the information you need right at your fingertips.

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