After high school, many students will go on to attend a two-year or four-year college. While this usually requires you to be physically present on the school's campus, other students may opt to earn their degree via a "distance learning" program. Or, they may take several classes online throughout their college career. This is especially true for students who are attending college well after graduating from high school.

An online class is a great way to get the credits you need towards your degree without having to adjust your entire life around a single class. With an online class, you have the flexibility to work where you want, when you want. That being said, online classes can be difficult if you're unfamiliar with how they work.

The Pros and Cons of Taking an Online Class

Taking an online class has many advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your learning style and where you are in your life, an online class can be a great option, especially if, for instance, you need to work on the side or you have a family to take care of. Of course, the downside is that you won't get the typical college experience that you would have with a physical class.

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Being aware of these pros and cons is a good way to determine whether or not an online class is right for you. First and foremost, consider the positive aspects:

  • You can do the work on your own schedule.
  • Taking online classes while working full-time can help you earn your degree faster.
  • You do not need to worry about distractions from classmates.
  • You can do something else with your time.
  • You can go at your own pace and do the work at a time that suits you best.
  • Online classes are often easier than in-person classes because of transparency.
  • Usually, there are fewer tests and more assignments/projects. 

While these advantages may be a no-brainer for some students, for others, the disadvantages may carry more weight:

  • The inability to socialize with other students.
  • It's difficult to arrange meetings with "classmates" for group projects.
  • It can be harder to learn the material without a structured classroom environment.
  • You won't know your teacher as well as you would in a physical classroom.
  • Sometimes, online classes are not worth as many credits as physical classes.
  • Self-learning is required.

Tips for Online Learning Success

Some students may decide that online learning is the best option for them. Others may not have a choice. Whatever the circumstances are, it's not difficult to be successful in an online class, as long as you put in the work:

  • Always check your email. Your teacher might send out notifications via email and it's important you stay on top of them. 
  • Reach out to someone else in your class, if applicable. It can help to have a buddy if you have a question to ask. Or, if the buddy is on campus too, then you can meet up to study together. You can also sign up for an online class with a friend.
  • Keep your documents and syllabus organized, so that you can access it at any time.
  • Be aware of when deadlines are for assignments.
  • Treat it like a regular class.
  • Print out materials provided by your teacher if that makes it easier to read and study.

How to Manage Online Classes

Managing online classes shouldn't be too challenging. But, they do require more discipline as your teacher is not physically there to teach you the material or remind you to study. Online classes typically involve a lot of reading material and perhaps even watching videos. Or, they may require a lot of independent research.

If you're not used to learning in this type of environment, it can be unusual at first. But, as long as you put time aside each week to work on your assignments, without distractions and with plenty of time to complete your work before the next test or deadline, then you may come to find that online classes are preferable over physical classroom environments.

How to Study for Online Classes

Doing the work required for an online class is one thing, but studying for an online class is another. In an online class, it's likely that there may be fewer tests, quizzes and exams than regular assignments. But, your teacher still needs to give you a grade in that department, so there may be a few tests throughout the semester.

These tests can be strange to take, as they are usually administered through an online test-taking software. They might be timed, and even though you can technically refer to your materials during the test (your teacher won't be there to stop you), they are aware of this and will make the questions harder and based on critical-thinking.

In order to study, you should block out time each week to go over your materials. Study for the test the same way you would study for any other test in a physical class. Use flash cards, highlighters or any other study materials or strategies you might find helpful. Minimize distractions by getting off of social media and putting your phone away. Utilize all the materials provided by your teacher, and reach out to them if you need additional guidance before the test approaches.

Studying for online classes is all about time management. Because the class is online and you do not need to physically report there, it's easier to put off studying. But, don't do this. Use a planner or calendar to assign yourself time each week to study, and perhaps study in a place like a library or in another quiet space. Or, if you can, study with a friend that is also taking the online course.

How to Be a Successful Online Student

Being a successful online student is easy. Teachers will only be able to see who you are by corresponding with you via email and seeing your performance on the assignments and tests they administer. As long as you are disciplined, it's easy to make a good impression for your teacher. But, there are some tips to make you stand out even more:

  • Answer your teacher's emails promptly. Even a simple acknowledgment such as "Thanks for the update!" will score you some points.
  • Be pro-active about your learning. If you don't understand something or you'd like more clarification, ask your teacher for help or for some additional materials.
  • Take notes on your materials, just as you would in a physical classroom.
  • Break up tasks so that you're not cramming.
  • Always strive to hand in assignments before the deadline.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.