College is no longer confined to just the campus. In today’s modern world, many residential colleges and universities offer alternatives to classroom-bound courses. Chief among these novel offerings is the online course – a college class that takes place through the Internet. Online courses allow traditional colleges to compete with wholly online schools and to offer their ever-diversifying student body a new pathway to a college degree. Extenuating circumstances, such as the novel COVID-19 pandemic, may spur colleges to rapidly expand their online college classes as well as offer new takes on traditional in-person classes or even hybrid options. So which kind of college course is best? It depends on what kind of student you are and what kind of instruction best suits your learning style.
Online courses are college classes that occur entirely through the medium of the Internet. Technology frames an online class, and professors may utilize video conferencing apps, instant messaging, class-specific message boards and learning management systems to create an interactive and responsive curriculum. Students connect to online classes using a computer, laptop or tablet and communicate with their professors and classmates by typing, speaking over a mic and casting on a video screen. A variety of majors can easily adapt to online instruction, including math, literature, history and foreign language, and courses in computer science or digital art work particularly well with computer-based instruction.
In-person courses are your typical college courses. Class takes place in a dedicated space on campus, whether a classroom, lab, studio or lecture hall. Professors and students are physically present in the classroom during the course period. In-person courses are aided by common classroom tools like whiteboards or chalkboards, paper handouts, video projectors, desks and chairs and pencil and paper. Students may be called on to answer questions or can raise their own questions with the professor. In-person instruction is vital to classes that involve experimentation or working with special tools, such as science labs or art classes.
Hybrid courses, also known as blended courses, combine online and in-person instruction in a meaningful way that plays to both courses’ strengths. When done right, a hybrid course can allow students to experience real-time feedback, in-person socialization and communal instruction while also allowing them the time to work at their own pace, direct self-discovery and attain a greater degree of flexibility. Whether a hybrid course is centered more on the online or in-person experience will vary from professor to professor. Likewise, a hybrid course may not give equal time to in-person attendance and online learning. Some courses may have staggered attendance, where half the class tunes in virtually and the other is in the classroom, but they may also have students appear less frequently in the physical classroom. Furthermore, courses using a “HyFlex” model allow students to pick when they come in-person and when they access class online.
Unsure which style of class works best for you? Consider signing up for a mixture of online, in-person and hybrid classes. Then, utilize your school’s Add/Drop period – usually the first two weeks of the semester – to get a feel for how each course operates. If one style doesn’t suit you, you can drop it and pick up a course in a different class mode.
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