Online Classes and Lectures – The Online University Process
Like anything new, there is a learning curve involved with distance education. Everyone knows how traditional degree courses work, one simply shows up in class for lectures, takes notes, and then studies for tests and turns in exams. Online courses work a little different, but here you will find general information on how exactly online classes work. I’ve split this article up into the different sections that compose a course, being lectures, assignments, and testing. Contrary to common belief, online courses are not an isolating experience, with students online interacting with their professors. I’ve finished off with a section on how interactions with fellow students can work in an online setting.
How do online lectures work?
There are quite a few different options professors have for putting lectures online, if they choose to use lectures at all! Traditional lectures offer chances for students to question a professor in order to clarify or reiterate a point. Some online universities follow this lead with real-time lectures, where the professor streams a live lecture and allows students to pose questions either by text or audio methods. The other variety is prerecorded lectures, in which the professor sets out exactly what he or she wishes covered and records it for use. While live lectures are preferable in that they allow more engagement, online students will find many advantages with pre-recorded lectures which are often more polished, allow students to pause and start in order to write notes, and to replay key segments. Lectures can come in many forms, with some professors choosing to organize the course with video lectures, and some finding text to be the best suited medium for their course. Some professors forgo lectures altogether, instead opting to format their courses with group discussions (which I cover later), or by workshops that get the point across in different ways. The beauty of online educations is that institutions are trying out new forms of learning that can work for the different learning styles that traditional universities often overlook.
How do online assignments work?
Online assignments work almost exactly like they do in physical universities. Like any course, it all depends on the professor whether they will be strict or relaxed about turning in your work, and what constitutes a valid excuse for needing an extension. Assignments are usually turned in via an online “dropbox”, where students upload their finished assignments digitally before a deadline. The professor then grades the assignment, adds his or her feedback, and returns it to the student. No more lost papers! This can be a blessing for students who are a little more disorganized, as they have an online record of when all of their assignments are due, which can really help get things in on time! One difference in online and physical university classes is if you are taking an online course which is created with the primary purpose of being finished on your own time. Some online courses are set up to be extremely flexible, and will have one final due date for all assignments: the end of the course. While this can allow people to work around busy schedules, it is like kryptonite for procrastinators who may find themselves with a full course-load of work due which has not been started till the final week.
How do online university tests work?
Online university testing is the area which is a little different than physical universities. While it used to be common for online universities to allow students to take tests at home, this is changing because the temptation to cheat is ever-present. Of course, even physical universities sometimes offer take-home exams, and it is possible to find online courses where you never have to leave your house! Far more common is that the online university will require a proctor to invigilate the test, or if many students are concentrated geographically, they may rent out a room for testing purposes. In the case of smaller tests and quizzes, many online universities still stick to completely online based completion and it is usually only the larger exams and midterms that can require a physical presence by students.
Do online courses require studying in addition to lectures and assignments?
Of course! Like any university course, you should be banking at least an equal amount of time for studying as you do for “attending” classes. This studying can be done quite well if the professor keeps in contact via chat and email which can substitute for office hours.
Do online universities allow interaction between students?
This is a huge concern for students who are worried that the course is going to be the prof lecturing and the student feeling alone in completing assignments. Fortunately, for many universities this is simply not true. Many online universities offer discussion groups, which can work either by uploading assignments and having others comment, or by simply having the professor propose discussion questions which are discussed by students either for participation marks or simply voluntarily for those who wish to get more out of their courses. This method allows students to clearly articulate their questions, as they do not have to be put on the spot, as it happens in a physical setting. Some professors even choose to format their lectures entirely by discussion groups. And added benefit of this format is that students who are shy may find it easier to get their point across when they do not have to speak out loud! The discussion online can be much more in depth than what people are used to in physical settings. While there is opportunity for discussion, online universities are still lagging behind their physical counterparts when it comes to forging a common identity and a sense of community. These discussion options are great as a learning tool, but are a poor substitution for the feel of a physical university where you interact and talk with your peers.
So, how do online classes work? In general, quite a bit like standard classes, but without a professor to keep you in line. Make sure to put yourself in a position of limited distractions and to focus on your courses! This can be done more easily with live lectures. It is a bit of a trade off for those who are known to nod off in lectures: the live lectures can keep the attention better, but pre-recorded lectures offer an ability to re-watch a segment that you feel asleep for. While now you have a general idea of how online classes work, make sure to ask prospective universities about how their classes work specifically. This will help you find the perfect institution to match your learning style.
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