How Do Online College Classes Work?

This transition from traditional to the virtual classroom hasn’t been easy for everyone. It takes time to adjust to a new learning platform. If this is your first experience with online college classes, it helps to know what to expect. Here’s how online college classes work.

Student attending online class on her laptop.

Structure of Online Classes

The exact structure of online classes may vary depending on the individual college as well as the course you are studying. Generally, you will have to log in to your school’s Learning Management System or LMS. This is a virtual portal that gives you access to all the information you need regarding the program you’ve signed up for. Here you will find all details about your course materials, syllabus, and homework assignments. The LMS also allows you to monitor your progress on lessons, view your grades, and contact professors, classmates, and support services.

It helps to log in a few days before your classes start to familiarize yourself with your school’s LMS. This will also give you time to get help from a professor or technical support if you have any problems navigating the portal.

Inside the Virtual Classroom

Like the structure, classroom sessions vary from one college to another and one program to another. Different professors will also set up their classes in a variety of ways. Within this variation, some things remain the same. As much as possible, online college classes will follow the same pattern and progression of the traditional classroom.

Depending on your program and professor, the classes may be a mix of live lectures and video recordings. You are expected to attend the live lectures while they are in session. The video recordings may not require your attendance at a specific time but you will need to watch it within a fixed period. In between your online classes, you will spend most of your time completing the assigned homework and projects. Keeping track of the timetable is crucial if you want to stay on top of your coursework and not fall behind.

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How Virtual Classroom Discussions Work

If you enjoy classroom discussions and are concerned about missing out, don’t worry. You may not be sitting in the classroom with your professor and classmates but you still have to engage in classroom discussions. Think back to the earlier classroom discussions you’ve had with teachers and classmates in previous years. You’ll be doing the same thing, only differently.

With online college classes, weekly discussions typically involve participating in group chats held at specific times. The professor may provide the class with the discussion topic or ask the students to come up with one themselves. Some professors may ask students to post their responses to a discussion board within a specific time.

Navigating Unprecedented Security Issues

One thing you will have to contend with during this transition to online learning is navigating security issues. Colleges invest heavily in advanced firewalls and other measures to protect their network. When you use your laptop or desktop anywhere on campus, you are working in a protected environment. You don’t have to worry about hackers getting access to your personal information.

When attending college classes from home, you are not protected by your school’s advanced cybersecurity infrastructure. This puts the responsibility on you to ensure that your sensitive information stays safe.

  • Start by reading and implementing the basic security checklist that your college sends you.
  • Install a powerful antivirus solution on your computer with advanced malware and ransomware protection.
  • Don’t make the mistake of sharing your login ID with anyone.

Make sure you the URL has a lock or green symbol before you enter your credentials. Hackers can spoof your college website but they cannot replicate the safety symbols. If you don’t see it, don’t log in. Contact your school’s technical support or security administrator and follow their advice.

2 Helpful Tips for Attending Online College Classes

Mastering online classes can take some time. Understanding a few basics will help you conquer the learning curve sooner and make for a more pleasant learning experience. Keep these tips in mind when attending online classes:

1. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking – All background noises get carried over through the microphone, interrupting the lecture and disturbing the class. Your dog barking, a door shutting close, or a kettle whistling on the stovetop can disrupt the class in session. Can you imagine the commotion if more than one student kept their microphones on? When you’re listening, you don’t need your microphone. Unmute it only when you need to answer a question or join in a class discussion.

2. Block your web camera – Block or switch off your webcam on when attending lectures. You don’t need it. Leaving it on unnecessarily can result in some very embarrassing moments for you. Keep it on only when you need to.


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