Ready to take an online course? Here are four things to keep in mind.

By Eric Hill

Online classes are wonderful, and I believe strongly in them. I've literally lost count of the number of online classes I've taken—and no, not the same one over and over! You can't beat the variety or flexibility. But one should understand that to be successful in the online environment, one must possess at least four qualities.

You must be a reader.

The vehicle that drives online classes is reading.

You'll have to read the syllabus, instructor postings in the course's e-mail, announcement section, discussion boards, and anywhere else the instructor posts communications. Students who do this start the class with an understanding of their instructor's expectations and deadlines, as well as their tasks.

You must be disciplined.

You must start your studies early and stay on track. (I'm assuming you've read the syllabus!)

Typically, in your first module, or week, you'll have to post an original posting to the discussion board by Thursday. You'll have to respond to two or three students by Saturday or Sunday. There may be a short, timed quiz that week. This is the usual basic task assignment each module (week).

Of course, there are other assignments: reading, papers, tests, maybe watching a video, etc. You must be disciplined enough to start your tasks early. The longer you wait, the more you set yourself up for a frustrating online experience.

You must attend.

The hard-luck stories, whether true or not, that students offer each term to be granted more time to do assignments generally don't work in the online environment.

It's not that online instructors are heartless. It's just that they have no way of knowing whether you've really been kidnapped by a UFO or have been in multiple devastating earthquakes. They usually hear these stories each term. Since their classes usually have 25 students, and the class is on a strict schedule, they simply can't afford to give you more time than allotted in the syllabus.

Of course, the university does have provisions for "reasonable accommodations" as defined by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), documented medical emergencies, and being called to military duty.

Register for online classes only if you can give them the attention they demand.

You must be honest.

If you don't know what plagiarism is, you shouldn't take an online class. The online environment graveyard has many tombstones carved with "Student Cheated."

Eric Hill l earned much of his Saint Leo University undergraduate degree online, and the entirety of his graduate degree online. He began teaching undergraduate human resource management and general business courses as an adjunct in 2006. Beginning in 2009, he served in the Continuing Education Division as a center assistant director and associate director, and he retired from Saint Leo as Gwinnett Center director. Eric and his wife, Sonny, are both writers who run their own book publishing company, SunHill Publishers.

Image Credit: Sunny studio on Shutterstock

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