About Online Courses
Online courses can be a great way to work towards a degree while maintaining a full work/life schedule. They allow greater flexibility in school hours so that you can learn and study when it works for you. However, they also require a lot of self-discipline, effort, and commitment. Browse this page for tips to assist you in determining whether online classes are right for you.
Types of Online Classes
SMC offers two types of online courses, fully online and online-hybrid.
In fully online courses, 100% of coursework is assigned and submitted online. This may entail online readings, answering discussion questions, completing online tests and quizzes, watching videos, collaborating with classmates virtually on group projects, submitting essays in your online course module, and more.
Some courses have regular online meeting times (e.g., you’d need to be online every Monday at 6 p.m.), and others do not (you’d have to get your work done by certain deadlines, but you do not have to be online at any specific time).
Online-hybrid courses offer the best of online and in-seat learning. You’ll meet with an instructor and your classmates a limited number of times throughout the semester and complete the rest of your coursework online. With online-hybrid courses, you get the benefits of both meeting face-to-face and the convenience of online learning.
To use Moodle, our online course system, you’ll need Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 or Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or later. Some courses may require downloads or applications that are not operational on a Chromebook.
High speed broadband internet (3G or 4G/LTE) with a bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps is recommended (minimum bandwidth is 600kbps).
You’ll also need anti-virus software with current updates and word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software (Microsoft Office 365 is available for free to current students with an SMC email address). Some courses may require additional hardware, plugins, or applications. A microphone/headset and webcam are recommended.
What You Should Know About Online Classes
Online courses are different from traditional in-seat courses in a number of ways you may not expect. Read below for helpful insights into online learning.
They require a large time commitment.
Many people expect online courses to be easier and require less of a time commitment, but that is not necessarily the case. They do offer more flexibility in when you complete your assignments, but they still require just as much, if not more, of your time than a traditional course. In addition to completing the same types of readings and assignments as traditional courses, you’ll also likely have to log in to your course module multiple times per week to participate in discussion questions.
They require a lot of personal responsibility.
Since you won’t be in class with an instructor to remind you, you’ll have to be extra careful to know deadlines and complete course assignments on time. You’ll be responsible for your technology. If it goes out, have a back-up plan. If you don’t know how to use it, you’ll have to learn.
Your professor is more of a facilitator than a source of information.
Rather than delivering lectures, they’ll often assign academic readings or videos and pose questions for everyone to respond in an online discussion thread. This does not mean that you do not have access to your professor. They will still be available to help you via email and other means.
You’ll likely have to do a lot of online reading.
Most courses will require textbooks that you can choose to purchase in physical form, but your professor will likely also assign a number of online texts that you’ll have to read on your computer, phone, or tablet.
You’ll have to share your opinion more than in a traditional course.
Most courses will rely on class discussion threads to help students engage in critical dialogue about the material. You will likely have to both create an entry everyone can see and respond to other students throughout the week. If you prefer to only sit and listen during course discussions, you’ll have to get use to sharing your ideas.
Are Online Classes Right for Me?
Here are some questions you should consider as you decide whether to take an online course.
Do you have access to the necessary technology?
You’ll need a reliable computer and internet access capable of streaming video and audio resources. Even the most reliable technology goes out sometimes. Can you identify a good back-up plan (internet access at a nearby restaurant, computers at a library, etc.)?
How good are you with technology?
You’ll need to be fairly adept at browsing the internet, creating spreadsheets and word documents, downloading and uploading files, and basic troubleshooting.
Are you able to dedicate at least nine hours of work each week per class you take?
Per the industry-standard Carnegie Unit, students should expect to be engaged in about three hours of work for each credit hour they take (one hour in class, plus two hours of out-of-class study time). For a three-credit-hour class, this equates to nine hours of work. You should expect to dedicate the same amount of time or more per online course.
How good are you at staying on track to a goal?
You’ll need to have the self-discipline to sit down and focus on school, hold yourself accountable to deadlines, and focus on one task at a time. Time management is crucial. Can you block off regular chunks of time to work on school?
Is your typical environment conducive to learning?
Do you have a place where you can go to get away from distractions and focus on school? Are your family or roommates cooperative and willing to give you time to yourself and help you eliminate distractions?
Can you interpret and follow written instructions?
Many of your class assignments will be given via written communication. You’ll have to read the requirements carefully and be prepared to submit the assignment on time.
Are you good at learning by reading and writing?
Many of your assignments will require reading a text and writing a response. Is that an effective learning style for you?
Are you comfortable communicating via email? Can you check it every day?
Email will likely be your primary means of communication. You should check it daily for updates from your instructor. Not seeing an email is not an excuse to not complete an assignment.