Online Learning Tip #1: Have Correct Expectations


By Shannon Bicknell, Instructional Designer
Correct Expectations
A popular myth among students is that online classes are easier than face-to-face classes. While online classes offer more flexibility and generally require little to no travel, they are absolutely as rigorous as face-to-face classes. Many of our online classes at Illinois are taught by the same faculty members who teach them in the classroom, so rest assured that you will be challenged with interesting course material and assignments.

If you are new to online learning, there are steps you can take to ensure you are prepared.

1. Determine which format is right for you.

Online classes are offered in a variety of formats, so when signing up for an online class, make sure to select a format that fits your schedule and make sure you understand what will be expected of you. For instance, there are blended courses that require some class attendance, perhaps every other week or a few times a semester. There are online courses that require some virtual attendance at a specific time each week. There are also online courses that do not require virtual attendance.

When considering attendance options, think about which option will set you up for success and which option fits into your schedule. If you think you would benefit from the structure of some face-to-face or live virtual sessions, then courses with those features may be right for you. If you have a varied schedule, then perhaps the greater flexibility of a fully online course would be better.

Additionally, there are online courses offered in 4-week and 8-week compressed formats. With all of these options, take the time to select what will work best for you so that you can have the best learning experience possible.

2. Prepare for the pacing of 4-week and 8-week courses.

If you choose to take a 4-week or 8-week course, take some time to mentally prepare for a more fast-paced learning experience. You probably have taken a number of 16-week courses in your career as a student, so you are already used to the pacing that comes along with learning material over an entire semester. However, if you are taking a 3-credit hour course in a compressed format, this means you will need to dedicate more hours per week to your course work than you would if the work was spread out over 16 weeks.

What does this amount to? On average, it amounts to dedicating 10-12 hours per week to an 8-week course and 16-24 hours per week to a 4-week course. The time investment is well worth it!

3. Actively participate in your course orientation.

Another way to prepare is to actively engage in your course orientation. Most online courses offer an orientation a week or two before the course starts, so this is a great opportunity for you to review the syllabus and class schedule. Take note of the number of assignments and when they are due. Does the course have multiple deadlines per week or one deadline for all the work within a week? Compare this to your availability and schedule to see if it will work for you. If you have questions about the workload or expectations, this is a great time to reach out to your instructor.

By going into the experience with correct expectations and excellent time management skills, you will have the opportunity to engage in rigorous course work and complete the course in a shorter amount of time. You can do it if you are prepared to take on the challenge!

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