3 Questions To Ask Before Enrolling In An Online Learning Course
In recent years, more and more students have opted to take classes online rather than in the classroom. This choice is appealing for a number of reasons, including the fact that you can get a great education without having to leave home and make the trek to campus. Essentially, it makes learning accessible to almost anyone. That being said, not every online course is created equal. Before you make a commitment to pursuing your education via the internet, here are three questions you should ask.
- What kinds of technology and programs are required?
One of the perks of forgoing classroom learning is that you likely won’t need to buy or carry around heavy textbooks. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about materials you’ll need. In some cases, distance learning courses require additional (or harder-to-acquire) components. You’ll need a personal computer or laptop, of course, but you’ll also need a high-speed and reliable internet connection. You may also need to download or register for certain tools like a Gmail account (which has a corresponding chat tool that many online classrooms utilize) or Skype. You may need a DropBox account for file sharing, in some cases. Some courses require other programs that may cost money. Make sure you have a good understanding of everything you’ll need, that all programs are ready to go ahead of time, and that these requirements are feasible for your circumstances.
- How are classes structured?
Unlike courses taken in classroom settings, online learning courses often have to strictly adhere to specific outlines. Most of the time, there’s no room for deviation from that schedule. By getting a good idea of how a given course is structured week-to-week, you can ascertain whether it’s a good fit for your learning style. If a course is made up entirely of readings and discussion boards, some students may not get a good grasp on the material. But if a course also incorporates videos, blogs, podcasts, and other visual elements into the curriculum, that balance can often translate into success. Don’t go into a course blind; instead, ask to be informed about the structure and then decide whether that structure will help you learn. Ultimately, if you aren’t able to put what you learn into practice, that online learning course won’t be worth the cost.
- Is the instructor readily available?
A course instructor can have a huge impact on whether or not you enjoy and learn from the class. Talk to the instructor before you ever sign up. Find out how often they’re available throughout the semester and how students can contact them if they need extra assistance. Are their office hours in line with your availability? Do they respond to messages quickly? Would you be required to come to campus if you need help? Find out the answers to these questions before class is in session. In an online course, you need to ensure that the instructor is responsive and supportive. Since you can’t rely on face-to-face interaction, these qualities are key. Go with your gut on this one. If an instructor is hard to get in contact with or doesn’t seem to have any interest in answering these initial questions, these qualities aren’t likely to improve once the semester starts. But if they’re willing to help in any way they can right off the bat, that’s a good sign that they’ll be there all during the course, too.
Online learning courses can be a tremendous benefit to all kinds of students. But keep in mind that just because a school offers online learning, that doesn’t mean they do it well — or that it’s the right choice for you. Be sure to do your research and take all factors into consideration prior to signing up.