What Are Online Learning Management Systems

Trimming the fat from the Thanksgiving feast of community college classes.

What Are Online Learning Management Systems

Jenna Cohn of Smartstart offers three tips for prospective students and prospective faculty. Here’s what you need to know…

You’ve finished the application and financial aid packages. Now you’re out on campus, waiting for the acceptance letter, checking your email, checking your responses… Making sure the package is there when you need it. But what about your next step? The wheels are in motion. Your tuition’s paid. Your financial aid is deposited. You are preparing for your first week in class. What’s next?

No, seriously. What’s next is the decision on your program of study. At first glance, the result seems pretty obvious. You want an online program because you enjoy the freedom that the internet can bring. It seems logical. Because you don’t necessarily have to leave the comfort of your apartment to study. And because most classes are small. The internet, with its 24/7 access to the internet, is a superior learning platform. One even better than a brick-and-mortar school.

There are several advantages to online learning. And one, however, often seems to get overlooked: It’s a cost-effective option for students and a way to keep college costs down.

Oftentimes, online learning makes sense for students who have a demanding schedule; they don’t have time to make time for traditional classes. But there are also many others: students who must commit to the lab because they are hoping to work in a lab in some capacity in their chosen field. Students who desire to be in an academic setting where they have real community. Students who want to take courses when it’s convenient for them and/or their family. Students who simply want to take online courses at their convenience. And student who are working full-time with multiple priorities, like a child or family obligations. They are spending more time at home than actually in the classroom.

The problem with the current situation is that students and parents don’t know their options and have yet to learn what is out there. While it is true that most universities provide online options for a small percentage of their students, they don’t often describe exactly what a student can expect to have happen when they try an online experience.

Here are three things you should know if you decide online learning is your choice for your next major:

1. Online classes are not necessarily shorter than in-person classes

A common misconception about online learning is that you can cram for your major course by borrowing the classes of classmates. Obviously, there is no “back in the day” mentality here and online classes are generally no longer extended into four nights or weekends. But some students sometimes become lazy and/or the only evening “study time” they can manage is for a class they are taking online. So, if you choose to take an online class, be prepared for an intensive work load. Expect to have 45 to 60 minutes of study time each night. While one-hour break periods may be found in some standard introductory courses, it may not be as guaranteed in a STEM/Technology course, due to the size of the class.

2. Online courses are not all the same

We all know that there are different tracks of study across all schools, programs and universities. There are some courses for beginning students who will have two years before they have to make a serious career decision. There are others for the more seasoned professional who may take the two year major path and have four years before they begin to care about their next step. Then there are courses for those looking to take one or two years off from school and/or at a later age than others.

Students should look at which genres of learning are on offer in their department. There are some programs that offer a subset of online courses to go along with the one or two undergraduate degree tracks. This is a great way to start your search when you are thinking about online learning for the future. Also, it can be helpful to see what combination of on-campus and online classes are offered in your department, as some offer a higher ratio of on-campus and online courses. If you have certain majors that require you to take on-campus classes, check with the program to see what online options are available.

3. Stay active in your classes

On a basic level, online classes sometimes don’t provide the best attendance (see the first point). Sometimes you forget to make a post-class contact with your professor because you are busy with something else. Make sure you check in with the professor/online lecture provider.

Some online programs require you to complete a cohort (that is, three years of the same courses). If this is the case, choose online classes carefully, because enrolling in one program can hinder your ability to be in other online

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