If you have never taken online classes before, the idea can be daunting. You know it is not like the traditional classes you took in elementary, middle, or high school. If you have attended college, you suspect online classes will not be like the college lectures you participated in, with a room and an instructor doling out wisdom and assignments at the front. But if you do not have a classroom, how exactly do online classes deliver the same experience?

While online classes don’t have the physical classroom for you to sit in, much of the online classroom experience has been designed to be very similar to it. Instead of teaching and giving assignments in person, instructors simply do it on the Internet. Here’s how online classes work:

1. Colleges and universities produce course content.

First off, instructors need to take their lectures, reading materials, and any other materials that the student will need and put them on the Internet. This means that schools need to change these materials from physical books and in-person lectures into a digital format that can be stored and viewed online. In many online classes, instructors will record their lectures on video. Books will be changed into electronic documents (i.e. Word docs or PDFs).

2. Colleges and universities put content on Internet.

Once all classes lectures and materials are translated to a digital format, those are all uploaded onto the school’s website, where students will be able to view them.

3. Students enroll.

Just as with traditional classes, students enroll in online classes that fit their academic plan. In most cases, students need to apply to and be accepted by the college or university before enrolling in classes. Once accepted, students need to actually enroll at the college or university. Just know that this whole process is very similar to the process for traditional classes. In fact, they are usually treated exactly the same at most colleges.

4. Students participate in class online.

Students log in to access course materials.
Once students are enrolled and classes begin, students are given a username and password to log in and view the materials for their online classes. This may include lectures, digital books, and images. They’re also provided with a syllabus informing them of their homework for each section of the class, just as with a normal class.

Students communicate with instructors or assistants online.
As students get immersed in lectures and assignments, they communicate with their instructor and/or teaching assistant via email, phone, or chat to get answers to any questions they may have. Again, the way they communicate with their instructor depends a lot on the tools the school provides. It’s typical for most instructors to respond to students within 48 hours.

Students complete assignments and submit them online.
For some online classes, students will finish their assignments on their own computers and then upload them in the same place where the rest of the course materials are kept. Other courses may require students to email assignments to instructors. Often, quizzes and exams can be taken in the same place where the course materials are kept. But it’s also not uncommon for schools to require that final exams be taken at actual testing locations near you, with official testing center proctors overseeing your test.

5. Instructors grade assignments and post grades online.

Just like with traditional classes, instructors grade your assignments and exams. But in online classes, they post the grades right to the website for you to see. With many online quizzes or exams, you’ll get your score instantly. And don’t worry about other students being able to see your grades-your password allows you to see only your grades. No one else can see your grades.

6. Grades and credit are posted to student’s college transcripts.

Just as with traditional classes, the instructor tallies up your grades into one final grade for the course. These grades are recorded on your college transcripts as a running record of your educational performance and have just as much bearing on your GPA as any traditional course.

To learn more about online classes and how to enroll, visit our Online Classes page.

How do you feel about taking online classes? What do you think works well about them? What doesn’t? Sound off in the comments below!

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