The Right Reasons for Taking an Online Course

By Kaitlin Hurtado on April 20, 2019

Taking an online course may seem like the perfect opportunity. You get to work from the comfort of your very own bed or couch, and you definitely do not have to worry about scouring the campus parking lots for the perfect parking space to make it to class on time. As wonderful as taking an online course sounds at first, however, taking an online course is not for every student. It’s important to consider your own personal learning styles and studying habits when considering whether or not to take an online course so that your class experience is as productive and effective as possible.

Rather than just taking an online course because it seems easier than your typical college class, make sure you are taking an online course for the right reasons. If you are wondering what the “right” reasons would be for taking an online course, read on:

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The online course is the only option

While some classes may give you the option of taking an online course or taking the more traditional course, sometimes you may find yourself faced with only one choice – an online course. Depending on how necessary the class is for your studies, you may choose to take the online course or just wait until a later semester where you can take the class in person. For example, if the class is time-sensitive to your college career and you need to take it at a certain time in order to fill a requirement for future courses, you will want to take the offered online courses.

Taking an online course may also be the only option for specific classes. Depending on the nature of the class and the tasks you are expected to do, its design is more effective for an online course setup, and it will never be offered in the more traditional classroom setting. Even if you are not sure whether or not taking an online course is the right decision for you, this situation may just mean that you need to bite the bullet and try taking an online course for the sake of graduating with your degree.

If the class is required, or if it is something you really are interested in taking, take the online course.

You already have a hectic schedule 

College life is anything but easy, and coordinating your schedule of extracurriculars, classes, work shifts, and personal time can get you easily overwhelmed when you realize that things can conflict with each other. Taking an online course may actually help eliminate some of your scheduling stress. Online courses usually do not come with a set time commitment, meaning, you can choose to work on class material whenever you want instead of being expected to show up on time for class.

When you are not expected to show up at a specified time and place for class, you can always adjust your schedule as things come up in life. Need to cover or trade shifts at work? You can squeeze class time in on another day. Taking an online course gives you more freedom to adjust your schedule so that it works more for you and your needs as they change.

There are multiple scenarios where taking an online course will help you with balancing your hectic schedule, here are a couple scenarios that you may just find yourself in as a college student:

You are only coming to campus for one class and you think that commuting during rush hour just isn’t worth a single hour-long class. When considering commuting times, you may be better off taking an online class and saving yourself the time and money that commuting to campus may cost you. While it may just be an hour-long class, you still need to consider gas money, commute time (getting there, finding parking), and even the time it takes for you to get ready. With an online class, you can take it from the comfort of your own home.

Your work schedule is all over the place, and as a result, your study and sleep schedule is as well. If your work shifts are at set times every single week, you may want to consider taking an online class so that you can have more control over your own schedule. With an online course, you can easily shift around your schedule as you see fit when you need an extra hour to study for another class, without taking a hit to your attendance or participation grade as you would for a more traditional class.

One of the advantages of taking an online course is how much control you have over your time when you do not have to show up to a physical classroom space at a specified time and it can definitely be seen as the sole reason for taking an online course.

Infographic by Kaitlin Hurtado, via canva.com

You desire more control over your learning environment

When taking an online course, you get to choose the environment you are studying in rather than being subject to sitting in a classroom setting. You will not have the typical classroom or lecture hall experience and you will not get the person behind you kicking the back of your seat, the person next to you spending an hour chomping away on chips, or even the group of friends in front of you whispering so loud it’s hard to hear the professor over them. With an online course, it is finally in your power to choose what distractions you can eliminate.

Do you tend to gravitate toward your phone during a lecture? Stow it away while you are in “class” so that you do not have the temptation of skimming through your Instagram feed. Or do you tend to fall asleep from the dim lighting of a classroom, easily being lulled into slumber with a not-so-exciting professor? When you’re taking an online course, you can always just pick an outside study space or a well-lit room so that you aren’t instantly put to sleep when you choose to work on classwork.

Although, it is recommended that you create somewhat of a study space for your online class. Depending on easily distracted you are, you might not want to settle down in front of the couch when your roommate decides to have a video game tournament. Instead, choose or design a study space to get you in a “classroom setting” so that you are more productive with minimized distractions. Here are some ideas on a study space for your online course:

  • Your desk. If you are already productive when studying at the desk you have in your own living space, you can also be productive when taking an online course.
  • An outside spot, like a picnic table. If you are one to rely on your environment to uplift your mood and motivation, studying outside to enjoy good weather and nature sounds may just be the perfect study space for you.
  • An on-campus spot, like a coffee shop or library. While taking an online course eliminates the need for you to commute as you would a traditional class, you may find yourself on campus for another class or just to study and you might as well take advantage of the many campus study spots.

You also will benefit by taking an online course when it comes to picking the pace that you are learning at. Unfortunately, we won’t all smoothly go along with all professors’ teaching styles and speeds, but online courses give you a little bit more freedom when it comes to choosing the pace. You will not have to worry about asking the professor to slow down and stop on certain slides of their powerpoint because you need more time to copy it down or you need more explanation on a specific concept. Taking an online course will allow you to take your time more comfortable, so long as you are keeping up with set deadlines of course.

You expect it to be just as demanding as a more traditional course

For many people, online courses equate an easy A because when you are able to learn from the comfort over your own home, how hard can a class actually be? You definitely should not be taking an online course if your only reason for doing so is because you think you are going to be getting an easy class. When signing up for a course, you should still expect to do just as much work that you would do for a more traditional class. You will still need to “go to class” by viewing powerpoints or recorded lectures, and still be expected to complete assignments in a timely manner.

You will need to maximize your time management skills to succeed in an online course. If you are pushing off lectures because of a shift or other time commitments, you are still going to be stuck with cramming all of them when a deadline or exam is looming over you. There will be no professor or TA maintaining a strict no technology policy during a lecture to help you minimize distractions while you learn – the job is solely your own.  Online courses are rarely an easy A in comparison to their more traditional counterpoints, so it is best not to choose it while relying on the fact that you will be able to do less work for the same results.

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Being social in a traditional classroom setting is just not your cup of tea

While college and roommate horror stories may go hand in hand, the trials of tribulations of forced group work during college courses can make many college students dread walking into the classroom. This can be something as simple as those random and awkward icebreakers where you realize that you cannot remember what you did over spring break when you are suddenly asked to discuss it, or not being able to find a partner as quickly as you would like when everyone around you has already found their partner for a class activity. It can be bigger, where you are assigned a group of students that you have to complete a project that can impact your grade heavily, only to find out that half of them don’t even know how to share a Google Doc…or so they say.

Taking an online course can help eliminate plenty of awkward social interaction that can come with a more traditional classroom setting. You won’t have to worry about finding a “class buddy” when you are just going to be learning from the comfort of your own home. However, you can still expect to have some collaborative work depending on the online course you choose to take. This social interaction can range from engaging with classmates on discussion posts or maybe even a small group project to be completed over something like Skype.

You also won’t have to worry about a level of expectations that you may or may not have in a traditional classroom setting. You can sit however you want without getting in the way of others trying to get to their seat, or you don’t have to hold in that one cough in a silent classroom. You also don’t have to worry about the noise of busting out a bag of your favorite chips mid-class and drawing the attention of everyone around you as you rustle around the bag for every last crumb.

The value of taking an online course is higher for you 

Ultimately, you will want to choose the option that works best for you and offers the most advantages, just as you would with any decision. You will not want to be taking an online course if you lack time management skills or the drive to be self-motivated in any and all tasks. When considering what option brings you more value, taking an online course may just be the option for you. Just like for the reasons stated above, sometimes an online course will offer advantages that a traditional course would not, and you should take advantage of that.

Taking an online course is not always an option, but it is offered to you as an option, it may just be the perfect fit for you.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a fourth year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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