Q&A: Online Classes: Learning to balance your time

Answer: The most obvious difference between them is that you're not face to face with an instructor in online classes, but the biggest difference is probably your relationship with time.

These two things are related. One of the biggest shifts online students have to get used to is the delay in getting questions answered. In the traditional classroom, you can get your questions answered right away. Since most online classes are asynchronous, you might never be online at the same time as your professors. This means you have to wait for an answer.

And what if the professor doesn't understand it? Then he or she has to ask a question, and there's another delay while you answer it. Whew! Why bother?

The answer is, because of the other elements of your relation to time. If you're like most students in the traditional classroom, when you're waving your hand around, your focus is on your question. You're not listening to other people's questions or the professor's answers. And if your question only interests you, then the whole class has to wait while you ask it. They tune out. And while you can get your questions answered right away, a lot of the time it is the loudest students, or the fastest, who get their questions answered, and everyone else gets trampled.

When class discussion is flowing in the traditional classroom, it can be really fun…which makes it hard to take notes. In the online classroom, you don't have to wait on anyone else to finish. Everyone can post questions--no fight for limited classroom time--and, when the teacher asks a question, you can take all the time you need to compose an answer. You don't have to remember what was said in class discussion, because it is available on the discussion board. You don't have to miss other people's answers because you're trying to remember yours; you can read them at your leisure.

Greg BeattyGreg Beatty has a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and over twenty years experience in higher education. He’s taught everything from standardized test prep courses and freshman orientation and composition courses on up to serving on doctoral committees. He’s taught in the traditional classroom, correspondence courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. He’s developed curriculum for several colleges (sometimes as sole author, sometimes working collaboratively), and served as a textbook manuscript reviewer for Longman. He’s won grants for course development, and awards for his teaching. Greg has mentored new teachers and co-taught workshops on teaching excellence. He’s also served on a range of committees and college advisory boards, and has served as an area chair for humanities.