How to Take Online Distance Education Classes

Online classes offer a convenient way to complete many fully accredited classes, certificates and degrees, but they aren't an easy way out. If you are new to online classes, ask questions and consider your goals before attempting courses online. Information for high school and college students.


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    Make sure online learning fits your learning style. Online classes typically involve lots of reading and writing. If you don’t learn as well from reading or dislike writing, you’ll have a more difficult time learning online. Everything "said" in the online classroom is written in the form of messages. An advantage of this is that it eliminates note-taking. Every word is captured in an online classroom and can usually be referred to throughout the quarter to help on tests, papers and projects.
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    Be realistic about your computer skills and computer access. In most online classrooms you’ll be expected to use standard Internet tools such as a Web browser and email, and may be required to download and install additional software on your computer. You may need regular (often daily) reliable access to a computer and the Internet. You’ll need basic computer skills, to be able to save, rename and manage files and copy and paste text.
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    Carefully select a college or university or virtual high school. Make sure the program is accredited or recommended by your school counselor and that the degrees, certificates or classes offered meet your educational goals. Look for a mature online program with a rich variety of courses leading to complete degrees or certificates. Make sure the school provides educational value that satisfies your financial requirements. Spend time going through the Web site to find out what other services are available online. This is important for students who may rarely (or never!) set foot on campus. Look for online technical support and advising, financial aid, registration and an online bookstore and library.
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    You may discover many community colleges have gone into Internet learning in a big way...but be aware of tuition and fees. Community colleges may charge higher fees for "out of district" students. There are some (for instance, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, IL) which do not discriminate between "in district" and "out of district" students on Internet courses. "Out of District" students are charged the same as "In District" students. This could be a large saving for many seeking to take several Internet-based classes from an accredited institution.
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    Expect to work and participate. Online classes typically require the same amount of work and interaction as a traditional college course. Plan to spend 5 to 12 hours each week on the class depending on the difficulty and your abilities. Good online courses create active virtual classrooms and students are expected to participate in weekly discussions and assignments and online group activities. Many classes expect you to be able to check email and log into the classroom a number of times each week.
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    Set realistic expectations for online courses. Schedule time for personal emergencies and computer problems. Notify your instructor as soon as you realize you have a problem that may result in you missing the deadline for an assignment or test.


  • Always study at least 3 or 4 hours a day. This will help keep you from falling behind. If you have the online schooling that is asynchronous then try to do it as much as possible.
  • Ask about scholarships.
  • Work with a college adviser or school counselor to find out what online courses you can take and what degrees or certificates you can complete online.


  • Not having a teacher to push you is hard, so you need to push yourself.
  • Do not procrastinate. Since online classrooms offer more flexibility, students need to have strong self-management skills. It’s best to create a regular time throughout the week, free from distractions, to concentrate on your online class.

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Categories: Distance Learning