Six Things to Expect in an Online Classroom

Being well prepared to excel in an online learning environment means having as much foreknowledge as you can about what to expect once you start taking classes. Here are some tips from, those experts who have been there so that you know what to expect when you start your first semester of classes:

Expect to ‘meet’ the instructor: Your instructors will likely introduce themselves to all of the students via e-mail at the beginning of the semester. You will probably already have received instructions from the school how to log in to the central ‘meeting place’ where you can discuss things, post your assignments and receive your graded work. Once you log in there, you will see that the instructor has posted a syllabus and possibly other course documents online. Download it and read it carefully.

Expect to ‘meet’ your classmates: The level of interaction between you and your classmates may be very minimal or, if the professor insists on regular discussions, chats, document exchanges or communications between all of you they can be quite frequent. Usually the level of interaction is dictated by the students. Some are quite ‘chatty’ and post a lot and seem to be willing to make friends via e-mail or chat, while others will log in only to post their required assignments and never be heard from outside of that.

Expectations for submitting your work: When your first assignments are due, they will usually be submitted either as a document you created that you upload to the school’s computers for the professor to retrieve and grade, or by copy and pasting your information into a special discussion board that the professor has posted. Just as with regular classrooms, the speed at which a professor will grade and return your work can vary wildly. Some instructors grade and return quickly, some will sit on it a couple of weeks, and others may not give you any real grading feedback until the end of the semester.

Expect online meetings: Though somewhat rare, the professor may sometimes call an online chat or meeting at a certain time. These chats will almost never be mandatory because of the nature of online education and the near impossibility of getting the entire class together at the same time due to conflicting schedules. During this time the professor will make themselves available for questions or comments in a chat room where you can interact directly with them for a period of time.

Expect a few online tests: Tests in online classes are much more rare than they are in the traditional classroom, so if you suffer from test anxiety, then perhaps that’s another reason to consider education online. Usually instructors of online classes get all the information on a student’s progress that they need based on the assignments that are turned in. For those few classes that do actually have tests (usually technical, math, programming or scientific courses), they will use any one of a hundred different programs that you can access which will keep track of answers to questions you submit. These programs may or may not give you your grade right after you finish the test and the answers are submitted to the instructor.

Expect to stay on schedule: When you get your syllabus at the beginning of the semester, it will likely detail what chapters you have to read what days, and what assignments or board postings will have to be submitted and by when for the entire semester. If you are so inclined you can get ahead of the game and do your work early, just make sure you stay on schedule at the least and don’t procrastinate or fall behind in your work and you’ll do fine.