Online classes have been popular for years, and continue to gain steam. Full programs, like Orion College’s Healthcare Management degree, are now available in a purely online format thanks to advancements in technology, like ubiquitously available internet and better video streaming capabilities. But regardless of whether you’re attending a school that specializes in online classes, or you’re taking free classes with an organization like Coursera, there are some
key mistakes you’ll need to watch out for to get the most of your education.
The Most Common Mistakes
Unfortunately, online classes are especially vulnerable to these common student mistakes:
- Unreliable Wi-Fi. It’s easy to take an internet connection for granted. You could be in the middle of an important lecture or a major test when your internet cuts out; do you have a backup plan? Online courses require an online connection, so it’s in your best interest to have multiple potential connections at your disposal. Choose a reliable provider and pay your bills on time, and scope out your local libraries, coffee houses, and other establishments, so you have somewhere to go if your home internet cuts out.
- Mismanaging your time. The greatest advantage of online classes is also one of their greatest weaknesses. Taking a class online generally doesn’t require you to be at a certain place at a certain time, so you have more flexibility. However, if you take that flexibility for granted, you can easily mismanage your time. Reminding yourself you have days to watch that lecture could allow you to procrastinate, ultimately shooting yourself in the foot. Keep a consistent schedule and set goals to remain on track.
- Underestimating class difficulty. It’s an online course, so that means it’s easy, right? Wrong. In fact, most accredited online courses are just as difficult as their in-person counterparts. If you underestimate the difficulty of a class, you’ll be less likely to pay complete attention, and you’ll spend less time working and studying, resulting in lower grades and lower comprehension of the material you’re covering. Go into your online classes expecting something challenging, and meet that challenge accordingly.
- Focusing on the bare minimum. Most online courses demand you complete a series of tasks, like a checklist, watching each individual lecture, completing assignments as they’re given out, and completing essays and bigger projects by the end of the course. Because of this straightforward checklist-style format, you’ll be tempted to only do the bare minimum—the amount required to “complete” the class. Remember, you’re taking this class to learn something, so to get the most out of the experience, go above and beyond the basic requirements.
- Refusing to participate. If you’re a shy person or if you have apprehensions about participating in class, online courses probably seem like a godsend. However, attending a class online is no excuse not to participate. Most classes have online forums, or Q&A sessions that allow you to communicate with your professors and other students alike. Take advantage of these features if you want to get the most out of your educational experience.
- Getting distracted. When you’re online, all the information and entertainment in the world is at your fingertips—and that’s a powerful source of distraction. When you’re in the middle of an unexciting lecture or when your attention otherwise drifts for a moment, you’ll be tempted to check in on social media, read an article, or find some other excuse to open a tab. Thankfully, there are a number of free web browser extensions you can rely on to help stop you from seeking such distractions—because your willpower will only last so long on its own.
- Allowing sloppiness in your writing. Texting, posing in forums, interacting on social media, and other forms of informal interaction have developed their own forms of slang and vernacular. Most of us have gotten used to shortening our words, using abbreviations, and relying on emojis when engaging online. However, online courses are a formal setting, and demand a level of formal communication. It’s too easy to slip into this sloppy form of writing, so keep yourself in check and strive to maintain a more organized style of writing.
Should I Avoid Online Classes Altogether?
Online classes aren’t inherently better or inherently worse than traditional classes in a physical setting. They just offer a different blend of challenges for the average student. There are advantages and disadvantages to every style of teaching or learning you can imagine, so there’s no “perfect” solution to education. Instead, you need to choose the style that best suits your lifestyle and learning capabilities, and understand the unique traits that can help you succeed in that area.