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How Does an Online Class Work?

Theresa Schempp
By Theresa Schempp

When it comes to higher education, one of the main decisions students face is whether they want to attend an online school or a “traditional” school—one where students attend classes in person on a physical campus. Traditional classes are relatively easy to visualize and understand, but online classes can feel more abstract.

What does a typical week look like for a student attending online classes? 

At University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), students can access all their course information through LEO, an e-learning platform. Online students receive a username and password that they use to login. From there, you can navigate to your different online classrooms, view classwork and due dates, and find contact information for professors. Online courses open seven days prior to the official course start date. Students can also access their class syllabus three weeks prior to a class start date by looking at the schedule of classes or in LEO.

“Typically, there is not a set schedule for students to follow,” says Sharon Bell, a success coach at UMGC. “They are given weekly deadlines and it is up to them to turn in their assignments on time.”

At UMGC, faculty members use a variety of techniques to educate students and support their success in remote learning. Professors lead class discussions in the online classroom, where classmates respond to both topics and questions posed as well as respond to one another. Students may also be assigned projects to work on either individually or as a team with other students. Professors also give online quizzes that are sometimes timed and may also assign papers for students to write.

Here are some key points to consider to help you determine if an online education will be a good fit for you.

Flexibility of online classes

Above all, online college classes offer students flexibility and equal access to higher education no matter where they are in the world. At UMGC, students can access their class lectures and assignments at times that work best for their schedule. For example, rather than connecting to a Zoom call, students access the recorded lectures on their portal that they can revisit at any time.

The flexibility of online classes applies not just to location, but time as well. Students can tailor their higher education to fit into their life, not the other way around. If they are working adults or parents, they can attend their classes in the morning or evenings, and plan around trips without falling behind. This asynchronous learning can help students succeed and earn their degree in a variety of circumstances. 

“With an online classroom atmosphere, it cuts out the time you would have to commute to an in-person classroom setting,” says Bell. “A student does not have to worry if they are on time or running late, if they have to work, or if they have no means of transportation. The online classroom allows students to still have access to their materials and content no matter what situation they may be in.”

Resources for online learning

When a student attends an online college, all the resources they need to succeed are available at the click of a button. Professors send students the information they need for their online classes, and the online calendar makes it easy to track assignments and upcoming deadlines. Professors can also send important announcements or information to their students quickly without the worry of a student missing it by not being in class one day. UMGC students also have access to a variety of benefits including digital materials, the online library, online tutoring, and the writing center.  In addition, most Stateside students are assigned to a success coach or military education coordinator, a dedicated UMGC guide who provides the personal attention a student needs to stay on track with their education and achieve their goals.

How can students be successful in an online class? 

Students who have earned an online degree have completed the same demanding work and studies as those who earned a degree in the traditional classroom. To be successful, students must use a variety of tools as they earn their degree. Here are a few tips from success coaches on how students can succeed in an online classroom:

  1. Practice good time management: Expect to spend approximately nine to twelve hours studying per week for each three-credit course. If you fall behind in a course, it can be difficult to catch up. Stick to your schedule and start as soon as the new week begins.
  2. Communicate often with your professor: Send a chat or email to your professor with any questions you have about the course. Professors welcome any feedback from their students and are there to help you succeed. You can also get support from your success coach and should communicate with them throughout the course.
  3. Be proactive: Students who log in every day and participate in some way are most successful, even if it is just to quickly check for announcements from the professor or to see what other students have posted onto the discussion board.
  4. Pay close attention to the course syllabus and your professor’s grading rubric.

While an online classroom can be new for many students, it is an exciting and great way to earn a degree or certificate. For many working adults who have earned a degree or certificate in the past, continuing their education online is one of the most accessible and affordable options. At University of Maryland Global Campus, we are committed to helping these students succeed again by earning their degree from an accredited university. Students ready to begin their journey in an online classroom can apply today

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.