There are two categories of online classes that students can choose from, online independent studies and semester classes online. Some schools offer only one type while others give students the option for both. When people refer to an ‘online class’ they are generally talking about the type of online class that runs parallel to the semester of the campus class, and not independent study. In order to help compare both types of online options, here are the basics of each type.
Independent studies online allow students to start and finish whenever they choose. The start date of the class can be anytime within the calendar year and doesn’t have to be at the start of the traditional school year or semester. Once the student begins the class however, they usually have up to one year from the start date to complete all the required course work. Some schools even offer an extension to the deadline if needed, for an additional fee. Students can take just one class if they need to make up credit for a missed or failed class, or they can sometimes earn an entire degree through independent study. The schools offering these courses are accredited and the credit you earn is comparable to those from a traditional college or university, high school, or middle school.
In independent study, the majority of the course work is completed and graded online so it offers a convenient solution for students without having to regularly commute to campus. The instructors are available to help and support students during the duration of the course through email or messaging features within the course online. The courses typically provide several forms of interactive media online to help engage students in the learning process. These can include YouTube videos, quizzes, and slide shows, just to name a few. At the completion of the course material, the student schedules the final exam which often needs to be completed on campus of the institution administering the independent study. Once completed the credit will then be applied to the student’s transcript or transferred to another school on their behalf.
Online semester classes have some similarities to independent study online, mainly in the way the coursework is completed. Traditional online classes follow the regular academic calendar, so they start and finish with the regular semester as if the student was attending in person. The class is completed entirely online, including tests and quizzes. The students still have opportunities to interact with their teacher and other classmates through email and group chat forums. There are often weekly discussion boards where students can post their ideas or comment on other postings.
According to online education review site Edification; “Online courses are subject to the same guidelines as in person classes and so the student still receives a quality education.” Interaction is required throughout the duration of the class. This differs from independent study where students may correspond with their instructor, but the course is completed without interaction from other students. Students earn credit for the class after successful completion just like they would if they attended the same class on campus. The popularity and demand for online classes is growing and many colleges are offering more options of classes and degrees for students to choose from. Students love the flexibility that online classes offer since it allows them to pursue a degree while continuing to work and fulfill other responsibilities.