Q&A: Online Classes: Planning for Success

Answer: A great question! Probably the most important thing you need to do to succeed in online classes is to plan ahead.

Online classes ask you to use your time differently than traditional classes. Many online classes are asynchronous, which means you and your instructor aren't likely to be online at the same time. If you're active on chatboards, you might be used to this, but if you're not, you might find yourself looking for an answer right away…and not getting it.

Some online classes move faster than face-to-face classes, too. If a class takes 10 hours a week of studying when completed in ten weeks, you should assume that it takes 20 hours a week to complete the same amount of work in five weeks. Now break that down: that's four hours a day, Monday through Friday. That's a lot! You'll want to find ways to work that into your schedule, or plan on studying on the weekend, or both.

There's also a learning curve, or rather, several learning curves. When you're new to online classes, you have to learn what your school requires that's specific to online classes (like a minimum number of participation posts), how to use the software your school uses, and, oh yes, the subject matter. In your first online class, you'll be learning more new things than you would in a traditional classroom.

Finally, there may be hidden time factors. For example, many schools use plagiarism checking software such as Turnitin.com. Some schools require you to attach the plagiarism checker's report with your paper. Most of the time, Turnitin is efficient, giving the report in a few minutes. Once in a while, though, it takes hours. You don't want to submit a paper late because you didn't plan for that sort of thing.



Greg 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.