Should you take online classes at college?

So, you've used a college search engine to find the college for you, filled out your college application and been accepted to your degree program. Now, all you have to do is concentrate on your studies, right? Well, yes – but there are still some decisions you may have to make before you can focus on your classes and coursework. One choice that more college students are being presented with is whether to take some of their classes online.

More colleges are offering online classes as part of their degree programs than ever before. Increasing numbers of students are choosing to take at least some of their classes online, but are these kinds of classes right for you?

Studying and taking classes online is certainly convenient. Much of the course material, such as required reading and lecture notes, can be made available for download, saving trips to the library. Coursework can be submitted electronically, and video of classes can be streamed live or downloaded later if you miss a class. All of this makes for a convenient, accessible learning experience.

However, you should be aware that studying online takes a lot of focus and discipline. It's easy to become distracted by personal email, social media websites and online radio stations. It can also be tempting to skip classes, since they can often be downloaded later. Something else to consider is the lack of in-person interaction you get from classroom learning environments – sometimes, talking with someone and asking questions face-to-face can be a vital part of the learning process.

Aside from the personal motivation and discipline required, taking classes online can be very convenient, and can leverage technology to streamline your educational experience. Taking some classes online while attending lectures on-campus can also be beneficial to your grades. According to data from the Department of Education, students who blended online and classroom-based learning – often called a hybrid attendance model – tended to achieve higher academic results.

Taking online classes may make it easier to manage a part-time job while you study, and you can even take entire courses online if you happen to live in a remote area.

First, consider if studying online would make sense for you. Then, discuss the idea with your college admissions adviser. Ask whether your degree program offers a blended, hybrid attendance model. Finally, make sure you talk to other students about their experiences of taking an online class, to see how it worked for them and what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of studying online.
 

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