Q&A: How Online Classes are Similar to Ground Classes

Answer: Most traditional college or university classes meet once or twice a week, from one to four hours during each meeting. Some classes are even scheduled to occur one hour, three days a week. In ground classes, students have a chance to hear a lecture from the instructor and engage with other students. This may include class or small group discussions.

In regards to assignments given in a ground class, students may have individual or group written assignments. Also, students may have individual or group presentations. Depending on the length of the class each week and the instructor's agenda, students may have the opportunity to do research or work on assignments in the classroom. Some instructors may also incorporate media into the learning process such as through movies, short videos and news clips.

In online classes, schools try their best to include most (if not all) of these same components. Instead of meeting with students in the classroom for topic discussions, students can engage in an online forum. The instructor might post weekly questions and expect students to respond to these as well as communicate with one another.

Online courses offer small groups, as well. Students might be given assignments to complete within their group. The goal is for students to work together and submit their group assignment on time. This group might even be expected to present their assignment in an open forum (within the classroom). This could be similar to a group presentation in an on-ground class.

Online instructors also might incorporate media in the same manner that might be used in ground classes. They may post a video or news clip directly in the online platform or provide a web link for students to view. Often, instructors may require students to answer specific questions or to write a short review on the media. Online courses and ground courses can be similar in many ways. You will have the opportunity to learn from a knowledgeable instructor as well as to engage with other students. The main difference is that you don't have to travel to an actual school to be able to gain your learning experience.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!