3 Things You Need to Know Before Taking an Online Class

Online classes can be the highlight of the semester for some students and a total nightmare for others. Whether you’re a student in the PACE program, a fourth-year who’s about to graduate or a student pursuing two degrees at the same time, the University of Florida requires that every student take at least six credits worth of summer classes, which can be completed online. If you’re not sure if online classes are for you, don’t worry; We’ve got you covered. Here’s the rundown on everything you need to know about taking your college classes online.

1. You still have to “go to class.”  

When I heard about taking online classes in college, I fantasized about watching my Intro to Statistics lectures from my bed while wearing cozy pajamas. On day one of my first online class at UF, I realized one thing — I still had to make time to go to class even though attendance wasn’t mandatory. After my semester-altering revelation, I sprang into action and decided to schedule a block of time every day to dedicate to my online class. Scheduling a specific time each week to spend on your class is a surefire way to stay on track. Aside from having to figure out when to watch lectures, write assignments and study for exams, you might find that your course is self-taught in comparison to a live lecture.

With that being said, these courses may not be for someone who is a kinesthetic learner. Third-year biology major Rachel Kalicharan dislikes taking online classes because she feels like they’re more impersonal, especially when it comes to needing help from a professor. Though she isn’t the biggest fan, she recognizes the flexibility of online classes and recommends them to those with discipline and time-management skills.

2. Online doesn’t mean easier.

Another misconception that college students may have about taking an online class is that they are automatically easier than live lectures. Third-year electrical engineering student Erwin Picado debunks this myth the best. “Online classes have the same amount of content, but I just don’t have to leave my room," Picado said.

Some students tend to struggle in online classes because of the inaccessibility of a professor. Online classes at UF are not always taught by a professor who teaches on campus, which means there’s a good chance your professor could be teaching your class from a webcam in another state. On one hand, this might not be an issue if you are also taking the class from a location other than UF. On the other hand, you might find it harder to reach out to a professor for help if you need it, even though professors are usually quick at responding to messages and emails from students. Instead of choosing an online class because you don’t want to go to campus for a live lecture, research the professors teaching the course via websites like RateMyProfessors and skim through a few reviews before you solidify your schedule.

3. Organization is a necessity.

My final tip for taking an online class is to stay as organized as possible. I agree with Molly Malaney, a third-year international studies and political science major and Spanish minor — a paper planner or virtual calendar should be your best friend. Not only does physically writing down your due dates help you remember them better, but it also helps you gauge how much time in advance you might need to complete it. Although your assignment dates will be automatically posted via Canvas, some students suggest that you print out your syllabus because your looming assignments may not always pop up on the “To Do” feature on your dashboard.

Overall, online classes are a great option for students who need a flexible schedule, but they do require a certain amount of time management and dedication. If you think you might be a student who struggles with time management, try to stick to one online class a semester if you’re left with no other choices. If a class you need to take is offered both online and in person, don’t be afraid to meet with an adviser and ask if you can be added to an in-person section. Regardless of how you earn your credits online or in person, one thing is certain — you’ll still end up with a degree.