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How Do Online Classes Work?

We’re reaching a tipping point in higher education. COVID-19 accelerated the pace of change toward online education. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, “This moment is likely to be remembered as a critical turning point between the “time before,” when analog on-campus degree-focused learning was the default, to the “time after,” when digital, online, career-focused learning became the fulcrum of competition between institutions.”

Are you nervous about the shift to online learning? Or excited to dive in, but not sure what to expect? Here’s everything you need to know about online classes.

Breaking Down the Typical Structure of Online Classes

For some, online classes conjure up ideas of isolated learning and self-taught lessons. While that can be true of competency-based programs, it couldn’t be further from the truth for top-quality instructor-led online classes. 

In an instructor-led and student-centered model, pre-recorded lectures only make up a fraction of the course content. These online classes can be just as vibrant and engaging as any in-person class. While experiences will vary by school and program, there are learning components that are similar across the board.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Livestream Meet Sessions: Usually held once a week, these sessions provide opportunities for live instruction, discussion and collaboration on course topics.
  • Interactive Assignments: These may include using industry-standard tools or software, or gamified content to help students learn through experience.
  • Case Studies: These lessons apply course concepts to real-world business situations. Case studies provide a highly-relevant and timely way to put theory into practice.
  • Group Projects: You’ll work with peers outside of class—through email or virtual conference calls—to solve challenges, work through simulations and develop presentations.
  • Quizzes and Exams: Regular evaluations, through both timed virtual tests and proctored exams, help you track progress and demonstrate proficiency of course concepts.
  • Recorded Sessions: In most online classes, all sessions are recorded for easy reference—both as a review tool and for students who cannot attend a session.

What’s Actually Required to Take an Online Class?

One of the best things about online classes is that they’re very accessible. Online classes remove many of the barriers of traditional in-person classes—like rigid academic calendars, inconvenient class times and long commutes.

There are only 2 mandatory things you need to take an online class:

  • Hardware: You need access to a device to take classes—desktops or laptops are preferred, but a tablet or even a phone may be sufficient. Some schools can help you get access to a computer —whether through an on-campus lab or a laptop borrow program—or you may be able to use financial aid funds to purchase a computer.
  • Internet Connection: You need to be able to login to your online class website and dashboard. A high-speed internet connection is extremely valuable. Some students will go to libraries or WiFi hotspots if they don’t have high-speed access at home.

You may need:

  • Software or applications that are specific to the course you’re taking or degree you’re completing. 
  • A webcam so you can still experience a face-to-face aspect in the online course.
  • Someone who can provide IT support if you face technical challenges. Most online colleges will provide technical support if you have issues like logging in to your course, forgetting your password or needing to access billing information.


Heading back to school? Make sure you max out your Financial Aid with the help of this free FAFSA report.


Debunking 5 Common Myths About Taking Online Classes

There are many misperceptions about online education—many stemming from outdated methods of online learning or stigmas from for-profit online college scandals. 

If you’ve heard any of these myths about online classes, you should definitely think again.

  • Myth: Online classes are the easy route. If you’re thinking about taking online classes because you think it will be a breeze, you may want to rethink your motivations. The biggest difference between online and in-person is the way you take the class—not the content you learn. 
  • Myth: Online classes are inherently lower quality than in-person classes. Quality is not determined by online or in-person instruction. True signs of quality in higher education include regional accreditation, program accreditation, instructor qualifications and institution reputation. 
  • Myth: There are no deadlines in online classes. While this may be true for some self-paced online classes, high-quality instructor-led courses still have due dates. Don’t let procrastination get the best of you or let the flexibility become a hindrance to your progress.  
  • Myth: You won’t interact with other students or your instructor. If you choose the right online classes you’ll have direct access to your instructors and chances to collaborate with other students. Top online classes emphasize collaboration because team-based problem solving is how you operate in the professional world.
  • Myth: Your online education will be perceived poorly by employers. This may have been true once, but it’s certainly not the case today. In fact, unless you go to a prominent online-only university or you offer the information, most employers don't know how you earned your degree. The credential is the same—and the instruction method is only a small consideration. 

5 Tips for Succeeding in Online Classes

Preparation is the key to success. Know what you’re looking for and plan ahead when considering online classes. Once you’re enrolled, make sure you’re dedicated to getting the most from your online education. 

Here are 5 of our top tips to put you on the path to success:

  • Know your needs as a learner. There are a lot of choices when it comes to online classes. Whether you want a lot of one-on-one support, a highly collaborative atmosphere or a completely self-paced experience, do you research and make sure the online classes meet your specific needs.
  • Make a plan—and stick to it. Time management is crucial to success in online classes. Look for online classes that work with your schedule and set aside dedicated time each week to attend classes, complete readings, view lectures, and work on assignments. Online classes that emphasize a balanced approach to coursework can make it easier to plan ahead.
  • Do more than the bare minimum. You get out what you put in. Spend extra time getting to know your instructors, peers and advisors. Take advantage of mentorship or professional development opportunities. Don’t just think of online classes as getting a degree, but as a networking and career growth opportunity.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know and use every resource at your disposal. Look for support opportunities like tutoring, research assistance and writing support, as well as dedicated academic advisors. 
  • Don’t overcommit yourself. Between personal, professional and education pursuits, know how much you can realistically take on. Do your research to find out how many online classes you can take at one time and the implications that will have on your time to graduation.

Choose the Right Online Classes for Your Goals

Franklin University has offered online classes for over 20 years—making the university a leader in online education. Franklin uses innovative online learning methods to teach cutting-edge curriculum informed by employers and industry experts.

Designed for working professionals, all courses are taught in a balanced learning format so you can work getting your degree into your schedule. See all of the online classes Franklin offers by exploring our degree programs.

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