1. Required interaction with professors and classmates – While you will not be having any face-to-face time with your instructor and your peers, that does not mean that you will not be able to get to know them. In truth, some of the students in online courses will argue that they actually felt like they were able to interact more online than they were able to in a traditional class. For the most part, much of these interactions only come in the form of the graded discussions posts, many of the responses, and from the journals. You will be held responsible for how much you interact and your understanding of the material being covered.

2. Technology – There are many different technologies that are used by the different programs and schools to ensure that online education is valuable. This differs in how you are to submit your homework to how you are to receive it; these many technologies play a huge role on your online education. The technological advances in educational technology, such as easy-to-access video cameras, are allowing the schools to offer a more meticulous and more helpful experience to the online students. There are special programs that may require you to buy or download additional computer programs in order to complete the coursework.

3. Coursework – Many of the online programs will deliver a weekly coursework load in the form of course modules. Each one of the modules will contain your reading assignments, discussion board assignments, tests or quizzes, projects, and essay requirements. You can usually see all of the your coursework that you are requires to do at the start of the term, but most program courses will keep the modules closed until you have completed that weeks coursework, which means that you will not be able to submit work or participate in any of the discussions in advance.

4. Tests and Exams – In the majority of the online programs the tests and exams are in multiple choice form or essays which can be timed or not. Though the environment cannot be controlled or monitored in most cases, the exams are intended to allow you access to your notes, the internet, and your textbook. However, some programs require you to take a test in a proctored and monitored location under supervision of someone that may or may not be associated with the school that you are attending.

In conclusion, if you are new to online courses, you must make adjustments to this style of educational learning, which can be very daunting. But knowing that you have the support from your instructor and student peers will help you keep yourself on the path to a successful education.

Online classes are quickly becoming the norm for students that are going to school. For many new students this a welcoming change to how they learn, but for many others, it can be something of utter discourse. Every year more and more schools are jumping on the bandwagon of providing online course and degrees, but not everyone knows what to expect when enrolling from an online course. Many of the new student look at online schooling as a way to work on their courses when they want, how they want or that they can take as long as they want, this is far the truth. When you decide to take a degree program online you have to know what it is, exactly, that you are getting yourself into. There are many disadvantages to online schooling but there are many advantages to it as well. The ability to take complete college courses and programs online is invaluable for so many students. And while there are some disadvantages, the benefits can outweigh them. In fact, there are nearly 5.8 million people currently enrolled in online college courses, with 28% of all college students enrolling in at least one online course.

Advantages of Online Classes

1. Flexible scheduling – Most online courses can provide more flexibility than a traditional on-campus class. For most, you can do your coursework around your family life or work schedule and you can, for the most part, choose when you study as long as you are able to submit your homework by the given deadlines.
2. Faster completion – Many of the schools offer a shorter semesters. Rather than having to go to class for a full 16 weeks, it is possible to enroll in an 8-week online course and spend half the time in that subject. For many schools, a new term will begin monthly or bimonthly which gives you the ability to start school earlier, instead of waiting until the fall or spring semester.
3. Study anytime – With many of the available online classes, you have the ability to do your studying on the fly. Studies show, that being able to learn in short bursts, is actually easier and better than a long study session because it helps to promote retention and genuine understanding of the course work.
4. Login from anywhere – Online courses can allow you to do your course work form virtually anywhere. You can have the convenience of getting to study from where you want to or need to.
5. Access to more colleges – Depending on the course or program you wish to take, your local school may not be able to offer exactly what you are looking to learn. Online courses can provide a specialty program from a school thousands of miles away without the inconvenience of having to move your entire family in order for you to attend school.
6. No commute – Having to commute to class can be a colossal waste of your valuable time! It makes you susceptible to issues that are out of your control and can keep you from making it to class on time or at all.
7. Potentially lower costs – One of the top advantages that students choose an online program is to be able to save money. Over 45% say that cost is their number one priority for choosing an online program.
8. Accredited programs – In order to be accredited, a school is forced to meet certain standards of quality and guidelines for their curriculum. According to the US Department of Education, more than 85% of all schools in the US are regionally accredited, but not all of the online schools are regionally accredited.

Disadvantages of Online Classes

1. No face-to-face interaction – Online learning cannot easily replicate the human interaction that exists in a physical learning environment. When an instructor is in front of you, you are able to read the body language, gestures, volume, mannerisms, and so on. All of these help the student to easily recall and better interpret much the information that is being provided. The student is also able to engage in a natural and spontaneous conversation with classmates and the instructor which can enhance the learning experience.
2. Not all majors are available – Some of the required subjects are not available in an online format. Some fields require a hands-on training approach or the use of specialized equipment may be considered a big issue for the choice of online schooling. However you may be able to attend a hybrid or blended course which can provide online and physical educational opportunities.
3. Increased personal responsibility – You are completely on your own! There is absolutely no one that will be able to remind you when an assignment is due, which courses you need to take next, or when it is time to fill out your new financial aid application for the upcoming year.
4. Networking challenges – When you are on campus, you are surrounded by other students that are just as enthusiastic about learning as you are. You can meet with the instructors and faculty, fellow students, guest lecturers and many others. You have the ability to get involved in physical professional organizations that can connect you with more real-life professionals.
5. Requires self-direction – As an online learner, you have to be willing and able to assess your own educational direction. Which means, that must take full control over what and how you learn. You must be able to determine how your course load will affect your home life and at what pace you will be able to work and study, what your educational goals are and how to handle any setbacks that come along.

Online vs. Traditional Classes

Where you live, your family responsibilities, any full-time or part-time jobs that you hold, or what it is you are studying, you may be able to quickly come to a reasonable decision whether pursuing an online education is absolutely the right choice for you. For many, it will feel like the only reasonable option, but for others, it will seem perfectly ideal.
And for others, like a pre-med student with a heavy load of lab-intensive courses, online courses may be wholly a bad idea. Another important concept you need to be able to succeed and excel in online courses, is a good understanding of how online courses work. For students that are familiar with physical, on-campus courses, the configuration of online courses will feel completely different. Each school will have a slightly different online configuration, and so will the programs in the different fields.

A common method of lecturing in both traditional and online classes is the virtual lecture hall or VLH for short. It delivers content on timed slides with prerecorded audio covering the content on each slide. This method of learning can be used as a complement to traditional lectures and potentially as standalone, but should you work to put it in your courses?

A survey was conducted with hundreds of students of the University of Windsor in Canada about how well the VLH was received in their online and offline classes. Only about ten percent of online students had a negative perception of the VLH. However, negative perception of the VLH from offline students was almost entirely absent. The survey also looked at expected grades. When looking at expected grades, the amount of expected A’s and B’s were similar. Lower grades of online VLH students were more likely to expect a D grade.

Overall it seems that the VLH is more beneficial when put into a traditional course. It is slightly better perceived possibly because it isn’t the only source of lecture the students have, and can be used as optional review. When it’s limited as being the only lecture students receive, it doesn’t help nearly as many students.

If you’re an online student, you may appreciate the situation you’re in. You can do your work on your own time and your own setting without worrying about being at a specific place in the middle of your busy day. You can also utilize many resources while learning that you wouldn’t be able to do when learning in a lecture hall. Nothing is holding you back. Having these perks can make it seem that your performance in class is pretty good.

Don’t be fooled!                                                                      

A study done with students attending Harvard’s summer school shows that online students are generally overconfident with their grade. The control group’s average difference in expected grade and actual grade was a vast 30%. That’s 3 letter grades! Not all hope is lost, however, as the study was looking at a method to address the problem, bringing the students’ expected grade closer to their actual one, and increasing their actual performance in the class. The method of improving the grades of the students is known as interpolated testing. Basically, at certain intervals in the online lectures, the students took small tests about the content that was just recently covered. When the students were given many tests spread inside their lectures, their average grade deficit dropped to 2%, while their average grade rose by 27%.

Don’t let your performance be hindered by overconfidence. Let your online instructors know about the benefits of interpolated testing. Since sometimes implementing these tests can be too much of a hassle for busy instructors, test yourself frequently when watching video lectures if your instructor decides against adding them. Be sure to test frequently, or else the results won’t be as noticeable.

Interaction, Why is it Important?

As children in elementary school, we were learning more about the world than in any other time in our scholastic years. We would learn by playing tag on the playgrounds, making art with our hands, and learning math with shapes. My point is, most of our learning at this stage in life was done through interactive activities. It is no secret that elementary kids learn best when interaction is involved. It is very easy for them to become distracted during that age, so a good way to keep them focused is by making them interact and engage with the material. I argue that learning should not be so different at a university, or even in high school.Image result for elementary student, learning, playing

As a college student, I see my peers constantly getting distracted with their phones and laptops (which most students bring to lectures), like how a child would become distracted if they saw a squirrel outside the window of their classroom. That is why I believe that interaction is imperative in getting students to engage with the material and actually learn it. Learning is a process that is usually better accomplished when you can interact with the thing you are learning so you can effectively “experience” it.

Online courses are now taking away the interactive side of learning, giving students a poor education, and they don’t have to! There are plenty of ways out there to add interaction to online courses! In my previous post, I talked about some of those ways and the pros and cons of each. Online teachers, it is your duty to revive the interactive side of learning and improve education for your students! Students, it is your duty to stand up for your learning and push for a better education.

The article below is a blog post that talks about the different ways to add interaction to online lectures and the pros and cons of each. It is targeted towards professors looking for a reason to add interaction to their lectures.

Technology plays an enormous role in modern day life. Due to this, many students have migrated towards online education. It allows students from far and wide to have unlimited access to education that they may or may not be able to access otherwise. Given the increase in use of online education, there is a strong need to improve it so that the students taking online courses receive an equal education compared to those taking the course in person. Interaction between the professor, material and student are one of the ways that we can improve online education.

For many subjects, this is the ideal way of learning, but for some subjects, like History or Geography, interactivity in lectures are not preferred. The advantage of lectures without interaction are that they can cram a lot of information in a short period of time, which is why it is preferred for memorization-based subjects like History or Geography.

The purpose of adding interaction into lectures is for students to get a chance to practice the material while they are learning. The benefit of this is that it keeps students from losing focus over long lectures and they get a chance to apply the material they just learned.

Now that you know the purpose of adding interaction into online courses and when to add it, let’s discuss the different ways to do so.

Image result for bored student picture, free

Adding Pauses in Lectures

This is a simple and easy addition to lectures that can increase interactivity. This idea is self-explanatory, but basically it follows the lines of giving the student an exercise to work on and then asking them to pause the lecture and solve it. The professor would then solve the problem and the student could see how to solve it if they got stuck. This strategy is basic and easy to implement, taking little time and effort to implement. The downside to this solution is that it is optional and not graded, which gives the student less of a reason to participate.

Incorporating Interactive Segments

This strategy is more sophisticated and time consuming than the previous one mentioned, but it can be more beneficial for the student. It is basically an online version of handheld clickers. This option requires a third-party presentation software that may cost money. For example, there was a program called Zaption that allowed professors to pose questions for the students to answer during the presentation and receive credit for it. This strategy makes it mandatory for students to participate in the lectures and learn the material better. Unfortunately, Zaption is no longer in business, but there are other programs out there that do the same thing. The downside to this is that it is more expensive and time consuming than just adding pauses into your lectures and giving the students the option to attempt the problem.

Live Lectures

Live lectures provide students the chance to ask the professor questions directly while “attending” the lecture. If a student is struggling with a topic or has a question during a pre-recorded lecture, it may take days for the professor to write a response back. With live lectures, the students get immediate feedback on any questions or issues they have with the material. This can be very beneficial to the student because their question is fresh in their mind and the help will be better received than waiting a few days after the question arose. The downside to live lectures are that many online courses have students that are in various time zones, so it is hard to find a good lecture time to please everyone. The solution to this is to keep recorded copies of your live lectures to post online afterwards.

These are all good ways to increase interaction between the professor, the material and the student and I hope you find them useful.