Online classes offer a way for students unable to complete traditional college coursework to earn a degree from home. While increased offerings and demand for online classes have contributed to the prevalence of this format, Internet-based classes are not always effective for everyone.
Online classes have become a major factor in programs offered by traditional campus colleges, not just online degree institutions. According to the Sloan Consortium report "Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011," 65 percent, or nearly two-thirds of colleges, indicated that online learning was a major part of their course offerings. More than 6 million students took online classes in 2010.
Students sometimes incorrectly believe that online classes are easier or less demanding than traditional classes. Actually, they often require a higher degree of self-discipline and greater time commitments from students. The Illinois Online Network noted in an article "What Makes a Successful Online Student?" that students may spend anywhere from four to 15 hours each week on a single online course. A typical three-credit classroom course often requires six to nine non-class hours for study. The online student has to schedule time for reading and assignment and test completion.
The class format for online courses is significantly different than classroom experiences. Students typically need a reliable computer and Internet access to succeed. Work is normally completed at home or in a quiet location where you can read, complete written assignments and papers and take online quizzes and tests. Assignments and tests are graded by instructors and feedback and grades are posted through a virtual software program. Students also participate in online discussions with other students and rely on email for regular communication with instructors.
The success rates in online classes are lower than those found in traditional classes. A May 2011 article in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" indicated that online classes normally have success rates around 50 percent, compared with 70 to 75 percent for classroom courses. Withdrawals, class failure and attrition in school are all unsuccessful experiences for students. Limited social interaction with peers and faculty and inability to self-discipline are common factors for students who fail to complete online classes.