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Are Online Courses For You?

Online classes are described as many things – fast, convenient, inexpensive – and while there are many benefits, they’re not for everyone. If you’re on the fence about whether an online class is for
you, or not, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have reliable internet access and a fairly new computer?

Many classes have interactive content like slideshows and video clips. Class materials can also be heavy on pictures, so having a computer that can process multi-media content, and an internet connection that can handle the load, is essential.

2. Are you a strong reader? Are you comfortable reading many pages of text on a screen, and interacting in a discussion board?

If you’re the kind of person who reads a book to learn how to do something, or enjoys reading a manual to learn how to work a new piece of equipment, online learning is definitely for you. Most online
classes will involve reading lessons on the computer, and then doing assigned readings in a textbook. You may also have a discussion board where you can interact with your classmates in, you guessed it, text.

It can be a LOT of reading, so if you prefer face-to-face conversations, and being around people, you might find online classes can be a bit lonely. On the other hand, discussion boards are great places to find lively discussion and to learn from your fellow students. It’s slower than talking in-person, but can often be a richer experience because of the thought everyone puts into their postings.

3. Do you have the time to commit to a course?

Many people feel that online classes are easier than traditional classroom learning, and that there are many opportunities to cut corners and spend less time on your schoolwork than you would at a
regular school. Not true. Online classes take every bit as much time as traditional classes, and might even take more. Discussions are slower via message board, and readings can take longer than lectures.
Take the time commitment into consideration before signing up for a class. Yes, it’s on your schedule, but it still requires you to put in the necessary time.

4. Do you budget your time well?

One of the biggest perks of taking an online class is the flexibility in schedule. You can study in that hour after the kids go to bed, or sip coffee in your pajamas while you take a unit quiz. It’s hard to beat the comforts of home, and the convenience of working at your own pace, but online courses still take discipline. At We Care Online, class units have specific deadlines, and you’re required to do assigned readings, visit the discussion board, and do your unit tests all on a set schedule. If you need the motivation of peers in a classroom, online learning might not work for you. There is some room for procrastination, but you do need to have a certain amount of discipline. Be honest with yourself about your ability to self-motivate and stay on task.

5. Do you enjoy interacting online?

The more interaction there is in the discussion boards, the more everyone learns. You also help build your professional network (and you might make some friends, too!). Thanks to the anonymity of online
classes, it’s easy for shy people to speak up and add their insights to a class discussion. Everyone is equal on a discussion board, and you have all the time you need to compose your words and make sure
you’re saying what you mean to say. No one will talk over you, or roll eyes at your comments.

Still not sure if online learning is for you? Try this quiz: http://online.uwc.edu/quiz_2.0/selftest3.asp

Also, here’s a calculator to help you determine whether or not an online class will save you money vs. a traditional classroom class. http://sln.suny.edu/gs/gs_costcalculator.shtml

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