Taking Online Classes in College
Most college students at one point or another have been faced with the question of whether to take traditional classes on campus, online classes, or maybe a hybrid course (a combination of the two). It is important to realize that all of these options are viable, and it may be worth your time and effort to try both and find a good fit.
College is a time of great transition and diversity; you may be in a situation where the traditional college experience just will not work with your schedule or fit your career goals - or vice versa. How do you know what is right for you? Is one harder than the other? Will it make a difference to potential employers? These are some questions I will attempt to answer, as a student who has engaged in both traditional classes and online classes.
First off, there is no one right answer or an easy way out when it comes to college: if you want a valuable degree that will appeal to graduate schools and your future employers, you have to put in the work- whether that is online or in the classroom.
Choosing the right college
An important step in choosing what type of school is right for you is simply evaluating your place in life right now. Do you have kids? Are you working full time? Does the career you are pursuing require more hands-on experience than classroom time? Questions like these are important, because they reveal what your true needs are. If you need to work full time to be able to afford an education, online classes may be a valuable asset so you can be more flexible. Define what your needs are and what you expect to gain from your education, then weigh your options.
Pros and cons of online classes
Taking online classes have many pros and cons. On the one hand, online classes can be very convenient. You can do your homework from home, work, on the subway, even at McDonalds. Anywhere with Wi-Fi will do! This is especially helpful if you are a busy parent, or if you are working full time or live far away from campus. On the other hand, online schooling requires self-discipline and self-motivation. There is less time engaging with other classmates and requires a lot more discipline to get your assignments done. You have to be able to motivate yourself to set a schedule on your own of when you plan on studying and doing homework for online classes. This may be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible!
Social Networking in classrooms
In contrast, the traditional college experience offers real face-to-face interaction with students and professors who may become important connections for you not only while you are taking the class, but in the future as well. Some career fields are very influenced by “who you know,” and gaining a network in the classroom could be extremely useful for finding internships and jobs in the future. The downsides to the traditional college experience are all about time and scheduling. You cannot control when and where the university decides to offer the classes you need to take, and you may not be able to control when your employer, kids, and other obligations need you to be somewhere else. It’s a trade-off. You sacrifice your time (the time it takes to get to and from campus, as well as time spent in class) for an experience that offers in-person assistance and communication.
Try it out
The greatest advice I can give, is to do what is right for you! This may take some trial and error, but it’s worth it to try both and see what works best for you. The last two semesters, I have settled for a combination of online and traditional classes in order to accommodate my work schedule. This has worked very well for me. Reach out to your college advisor and get their opinion: mine even recommended I take specific classes online. I took anatomy online, for instance, because I did not have time to go to the lab and I was able to get an A in this very difficult class that many people struggle to pass.
This is your college experience, and it doesn’t have to be the same as anyone else’s. You will be most successful when you do what is right for your life!