Most online colleges and universities will agree that the online environment is not for everyone, just as attending college on campus is not for everyone. The good news is that some have taken that into account and allow you to test drive a course before you actually enroll.

How it works

Online course test drives give you the opportunity to sample the university interfaces. You can learn how the tests are conducted and graded. You also get an opportunity to experience first-hand how peer collaboration takes place. During the test drive you will be able to post and view sample assignments. One of the most important aspects of doing a demo is that you have the opportunity to investigate the online library access and chat services. In some instances the colleges offer online course tours and demos as a guest, and in others you have to provide your contact information. In a few cases, you are allowed to complete the test course and use it for credit once you register for classes.

Schools that offer test drives

Not all universities allow you to test drive their classes or lectures, but here is a short list of ones that do offer some form of sampling, including virtual tours:

There are also some brick and mortar institutions that offer online course demos for you to compare:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Texas
  • Oregon State University
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Colorado

One student’s experience

One student, who sampled University of Phoenix’s eCampus spoke quite highly of his experiences. His test drive of one of their courses, actually prompted him to enroll in the online university:

The delivery was actually pretty impressive and much more user friendly than I expected.  There was clear and continuous interaction between instructors and students in the online classroom, and it was not as disorganized or disjointed as I would have expected.  Obviously, the flexibility of class and exam times as well as not having to commute to a local community college were advantages that were already drawing me to the online option, but the fact that the classroom environment was actually decent, let alone impressive, was what really shocked me.

I also like the fact that the school offers two delivery methods for text books, the traditional hard-cover book delivered to your home, or e-books delivered through your computer.

Overall, it has been a good choice for me thus far.  I have been enrolled now for almost two terms and classes are going well.  The material is not easy simply because it is delivered online.  In actuality, it is the same exact course content (same books) you would get at any traditional university, but here the time and effort commitment calls for significant self-motivation. I love that I can avoid the LA traffic and over-crowded public school system here in California.  Online education definitely has its perks.

Should you enroll in an online course?

If you think online education might be for you, remember just because the course is online, you can slack off, not attend and not participate. Online education is similar to traditional education in that you will be expected to attend class, complete your assignments, interact with other students and professors and fulfill all course requirements in order to complete the class. It’s not for the lazy or unmotivated. It requires a certain amount of self-motivation and organization. Don’t look at online classes as an “easy” way to get your degree.

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