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What are Online Courses?

Ana-Marcela Lopez

Online courses are becoming more ubiquitous as colleges adapt to students’ changing needs. As a result, more colleges are offering courses and even entire degrees online. Online schooling can be a cheaper, more convenient way to get your degree. You might be wondering what online courses are like and whether you will be successful in one. Continue reading to learn about the different types of online courses, the pros and cons of an education online and, importantly, how to succeed. 

Types of Online Learning

A couple of the biggest attractions of online courses are their flexibility and your freedom to study on your own schedule. But not every online course lets you work at your own pace. Take note of the two types of online learning: synchronous and asynchronous. 

  • Synchronous: Synchronous online learning refers to virtual lectures and discussion boards that require participation at determined times. These courses follow a similar structure to an on-campus course, so there is less flexibility in the times at which you study. However, these courses can be beneficial for those who struggle with time management or crave a more collaborative learning environment.
  • Asynchronous: Asynchronous courses do not follow a set schedule, so they allow students to complete the coursework at their own pace. Students with unconventional schedules or family and work obligations may benefit from self-paced learning. 

No matter the style of the course, you will need to keep track of deadlines and exams, most of which will be predetermined.

Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Pros: Online courses have significantly altered the path to a college degree with a more accessible outlet to higher education. Advantages of online learning include: 

  • Increased flexibility: Online courses generally allow you to study wherever and whenever you want. 
  • Faster completion time: Many online programs are accelerated, so you can earn your degree faster than you would in a traditional on-campus program.
  • Career advancement: As online programs increase in popularity, so too do they diversify. There are now a variety of disciplines available to help nearly anyone advance their career. 

Cons: Just like traditional college courses, online learning has its own set of challenges that can be difficult to overcome. As you consider an online course, prepare for the following challenges:

  • Less access to professors: Learning and understanding your course material might be more difficult if you cannot consult your professor. 
  • Requires stricter time management: Less structure and accountability can make it easier to neglect assignments. 
  • Less access to advising or other campus amenities: One of the biggest attractions of online courses is that you might never have to step foot on campus. But this can also be one of the biggest challenges, because you won’t have direct, face-to-face access to advisors or your professor’s office hours. 

How to Succeed in an Online Course: 

Online courses are a great alternative to traditional college courses, which might be what you need to get a degree. But keep in mind that a common misconception is that online courses are easier. In reality, they can be just as challenging—if not more so—than an on-campus course. In order to be successful in an online course, you will need excellent time management skills and a true sense of personal accountability. Another key to success is establishing different sources of support. Whether it’s a campus advisor or friends and family, having a support system will help you stay focused and succeed. 

Though college is going to be challenging no matter where or how you study, there are many excellent schools that streamline non-traditional forms of education with a design to ensure success. And that’s where we come in. Abound: Finish College narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.


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I’m an Adult Wanting to Finish College: Where Do I Start?

How to Finish College Without Being Forever in Debt

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