Going to school online has several appealing qualities. Students enjoy the flexibility in their schedules, the opportunity to skip a potentially lengthy commute and the freedom to study and complete their coursework virtually anywhere. However, many students still wonder what to expect from an online college course. They may not be sure what will be required of them or how an online learning experience compares to the classroom learning experience they are familiar with already. Online learning has both similarities to and differences from traditional learning, and those similarities and differences extend to the coursework students must complete.

Similar Course Requirements

Online classes are no easier than classes taken in the classroom, and many students report having a greater workload in online courses than they have had in traditional courses. Some students are surprised to find that they must still write papers, take tests and participate in class discussions, but all of those factors found in traditional college courses are also parts of online learning, The College Fix higher education news site reported.

Completing Similar Requirements in a Different Environment

Exactly how students are expected to complete requirements like papers, tests and classroom participation in an online learning environment may differ from the way students of traditional college classes meet their course requirements. The goal of online college isn’t to decrease the amount of work a student must do or even necessarily change how college classes are taught. Instead, it’s to make sure students have access to a quality education without having to step foot on a physical campus.

In online college courses, students write papers just as they would in any other class, but they submit them online, often by uploading them to the online learning community where professors can review the assignment and provide private feedback and grades. When it comes to tests, online colleges are increasingly trying to prevent cheating. While some online courses require students to visit a physical site to take a proctored exam, others require the use of webcams to virtually watch students take their tests, The New York Times reported. Class participation in online courses often takes the form of virtual class discussions in message boards within the online learning platform. Students might also be required to coordinate group projects or complete interactive work in a virtual laboratory for subjects like science and mathematics.

Students entering online college degree programs should expect to complete the same work they would have to do in traditional college courses, including papers, examinations and class participation. However, students should also expect to adapt to a new way of completing this work. For students who might fear that potential employers might not adequately respect their online college degrees, the fact that schools are setting the bar high for online college students should be reassuring. They can feel confident that they are learning as much as – or more than – their peers in traditional courses and gaining the skills they need to succeed.