As society progresses towards a more technically advanced work environment, you can guarantee that you will encounter an online class whether for professional development, or for completing classes towards a Masters or PHD degree.

Online classes allow participants to connect with people that generally share similar interests, responsibilities, and even sometimes time in life.
When you register for an online class you are choosing a subject that for some reason interested you, and many of the other participants will have done the same. Remember this when you are nervous and apprehensive, and even overwhelmed.

You get out of an online class what you put in to it.
The same can be said of a face to face class. The only difference between an Online class and a face to face class is the technology and the participants.

Here are some strategies for getting the most out of an online class

  1. Communicate-Don’t wait until you have read all of the assignments to start conversing with your classmates. Post your reactions, questions, and connections when they happen so that you can share with your classmates. Remember if you stay silent you are cheating your classmates out of hearing a different perspective, and experiences
  2. Plan Ahead-Set aside a time when you will focus on your class. Treat it as if you were sitting in a face to face class. Don’t schedule anything during this time, and even consider going somewhere like the library to escape the duties of home
  3. Don’t procrastinate-It is so easy in an online class to wait until the end of the week or the day before an assignment is due to start working. As I hope you can remember from your face to face classes this doesn’t result in your best work.
  4. Have Fun-Unless this class is part of a required curriculum you signed up for a reason. That reason may be that you were interested in the subject, or you are going to make a program and needed more information. Either way you owe it to yourself to enjoy your time immersed in this topic. Feel free to share any connections you make with this topic to your encounters. We ask young students to share connections made when reading a book, why wouldn’t we want that from adults.
  5. Participate– The amazing part of online classes is that it really is the students that make the class successful. Boring Face to Face classes generally involved a lecturer standing for an hour re-stating what you read in your textbook, with no real acknowledgement that there are people in the room. The lively fun classes were ones that the teacher had students talk to one another about what they had read, or thought about a certain subject. Each group would most certainly go on many tangents, but when they were drawn back together the students would respond on topic about what they had discussed. Going off topic is part of discussions, so don’t be afraid that you don’t fit the mold. An online class is similar to your group discussion only you have a longer time to discuss, and more people in your group.

Online classes are great opportunities, and if you do more than just read you will have a chance to learn more. The teacher and the other classmates will respond to you. You will be able to have some of your questions answered, and most likely be comforted that you are not the only one who has those questions.

Lastly, Remember you will be interacting in the same way that teens interact with their peers. Teens use IM and in-game chat (chat), Forums(Discussion Boards), Blogs, and podcasts to communicate ideas. The topics they discuss range from political to pleasure, depending on the person. Being a digital native does not mean that these technologies are only for you, it means that technology doesn’t intimidate you. In online classes there will be glitches, but if the participants are flexible you can move past the glitches and into learning.

posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

About Jami Schwarzwalder

Currently a teen librarian with the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA.She is passionate about technology, making, and learning. See what I'm up to at

8 Thoughts on “Online Classes

  1. Linda Braun [Member] on March 16, 2006 at 6:28 am said:

    As an instructor for a lot of online classes I really appreciate the comments posted by Jami. I find that students in online classes often think that it’s going to be a quick way to learn something. But, when the class takes place over a multiple week period of time and there are assignments, discussions, chat and such it ends up that the work required is often more rather than less than a face-to-face class. (That’s for the instructor too.)

    Any type of learning requires participation, discussion, thought, and so on. In the online format that takes a different format but it still works.

    In my almost 10 years teaching online I’ve found the delivery method provides amazing teaching and learning experiences. Students who think about and participate in an online class with Jami’s points in mind will have a great experience.

  2. Thanks for the comments Jami. As someone who earned an accredited-MBA via on-line learning, I would like to endorse your list of strategies. I did not miss face-to-face meetings because the online dialogue and interaction were incredible. The classes were invigorating, but the program was not easy…on-line does not translate to simple.

    Jami’s suggestions are a great intro for people as they consider online training of any type. (I wouldn’t think about sitting in a classroom for any formal education after having had such a good experience online.) Thanks again for posting.

  3. I’ll be teaching an online course for CUDenver this summer on Adolescent Literature. Thanks Jami for such great suggestions. I plan to share them with my students. In addition, I hope they will visit this blog to get more insight on working with young adults.

  4. This post is 3 & 1/2 years old, and it’s one of the best ones I’ve seen on the topic – I always recommend my online course participants read it!

  5. Carrie Randall on November 18, 2009 at 7:54 am said:

    As an online student, I appreciate this article’s straight-forward and optimistic point of view.

  6. Heather Damico on November 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm said:

    Great article! I am sometimes apprehensive to comment – which is just my own insecurities – because I think “everyone” will have figured this out already or thought the same thing so why comment. I will try to be more spontaneous.!

  7. Pati Mari on February 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm said:

    I’m not sure I completely agree with the comment “The only difference between an Online class and a face to face class is the technology and the participants.” Although I love communicating online, there is a lot to be said about face to face interactions between humans that can’t be duplicated online. Body language and spontaneity come to mind, as well as social bonding between participants.

    That said, I recognize the great value in online classes, such as convenience, cost and ease of use.

  8. Thank you for a simple explanation as to why I will try something as yet untried.

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