If you’ve ever looked into taking online classes, you probably know that opinions about online learning swing from the wildly negative to the rose-tinted positive. 

The truth is somewhere in the middle: online classes are a good fit for some students, but not all. Are they a good choice for you?

Let’s start with a warning about the possible downsides:

Students who need face-to-face interactions to help with the learning process, and those who aren’t the best at time-management, may find themselves struggling with an online course. If you prefer hands-on learning, or need help pacing assignment completion, a traditional classroom is really your best bet.

Online courses can require a lot of reading and writing, as well as some technological know-how. Students who are coming back to school after some time away from the academic environment may find themselves unprepared for the kind of essay-oriented work that some online classes require. Others may not be up to speed with the kinds of computer skills that are needed to navigate online systems.

That said, the positives of online learning are numerous. To list a few:

Convenience. Working outside of school, raising a family, and other commitments can make it difficult to fit traditional classes into the schedule. Online courses let you plan your study time around your day, instead of the other way around.

Lower costs. While not all online classes or degrees are the same, total college costs are almost always lower online. There are no commuting costs, and daycare costs for children can be greatly reduced. Moreover, some course materials are digital and available for free, or at a fraction of the cost of textbooks.

Brush up your work skills. You don’t have to quit your day job to go back to school. Online classes let you continue in your current job while you learn, and earning a degree or certificate can help you broaden or revise your skill set.

Pajamas! …and so much more. Beyond what probably comes to mind about a student attending class from the breakfast table, consider the lower stress that comes from cutting out daily traffic jams, fighting for parking, leaving work early to get to school, and juggling childcare!

Are Online Classes a Good Fit For Me?

1. Feeling that I am part of a class is

  • a. not necessary.
  • b. somewhat important.
  • c. very important.

2. I generally

  • a. get things done ahead of time.
  • b. need reminders, but get things done on time.
  • c. put things off until the last minute.

3. I prefer to communicate

  • a. in writing.
  • b. in person, but I’m comfortable expressing myself in writing.
  • c. in person, face-to-face. I do not like to write.

4. I consider myself

  • a. a good reader, able to understand most text material without help.
  • b. an average reader. Sometimes I need help understanding the material.
  • c. a slow reader. I often need help understanding text material.

5. I think face-to-face classroom discussion

  • a. is helpful, but discussion via email is equally engaging.
  • b. is sometimes helpful.
  • c. is vital.

6. I generally prefer to

  • a. figure out instructions myself.
  • b. try to follow instructions on my own, then ask for help as needed.
  • c. have instructions explained or demonstrated to me.

7. When presented with new technology, I

  • a. look forward to learning new skills.
  • b. I feel some apprehension, but try it anyway.
  • c. I avoid working with new technology.

8. If I have to go to campus to take exams or complete work

  • a. I would have difficulty going to campus at any time.
  • b. I will need to make an evening or weekend appointment.
  • c. I can go almost anytime.

Add 2 points for each “a” answer.
Add 1 point for each “b” answer.
Subtract 1 point for each “c” answer

• 12+ points: An online course would be a good fit for you.
• 8-11 points: online learning may work for you, but you should be prepared to make a few
adjustments in your schedule and study habits to succeed.
• 7 or fewer points: online classes are probably not the best way to learn the material; your chance for success would be better if you enrolled in a face-to-face course.