Students who have never taken online classes (and even some who have) sometimes have expectations that make adjusting to online difficult. It is best to address these at the start of the course before bad habits set in (or before they sign up for a course that is too different from that which they expected or needed). College counselors should be familiar with many online courses to properly advise and place students.


"Easy 'A'"
  • make clear the amount of work involved before students sign up for your course (in orientation, on your college web page, syllabus)
  • give past examples of your general grade distributions (or a general description of how students do in your online courses compared to your face-to-face courses)
  • emphasize this is a "real" course, transferable, college-level
  • since some studies now show students as viewing online courses as actually more demanding, temper any warnings with encouragement
"This course will give me a lot more free time"
  • put the following in your syllabus: "Plan to devote much more time to it than you do a lecture class. A lecture class meets 3 hours per week with at least an additional 3 - 6 hours of homework per week. Plan on spending at least that amount of time on this class. Students who do best in online classes manage their time well, complete assignments, and do work on many different days during each week (rather than waiting deadline day)."
  • warn that online students frequently underestimate the time needed for offline reading and doing assignments (even underestimating the amount of time spent waiting for screen refreshes, downloading, tech issues, etc.)
  • mention how they will save driving time (and gas), parking fees, but that home distractions can make things more difficult (suggest their "online study room" be free of distractions with email and cell phone turned off
"I like working at my own pace"
  • although there is more flexibility with online courses, these are not really "self-paced" courses - there are strict deadlines (every week or so) with penalties for late assignments
"I can sit back in my room and chill"
  • clarify that online courses are not correspondence courses - students must be active-learners, self-motivated, and self-directed
  • give examples of how there is more interaction, communication, and collaboration in online classes
  • add that many students need and prefer the in-person communication and discipline of face-to-face classes
"I can be anonymous"
  • state the surprise reality: "You will get to know your instructor and your fellow students much more personally than you do in a face-to-face class."
  • online discussions, emails, assignments, and group work are not anonymous
"I will just be clicking around on the Web"
  • list a typical week's assignments on your home page or point these out in the syllabus
  • emphasize that much of the work is written work (this sometimes surprises new students)
"Your online course is not like the one I took last semester"
  • state that just as all lecture classes are not the same, all online courses are not the same
  • create a first week Db thread on expectations, rules, procedures
"This course will be perfect for me because I am not good at English"
  • warn that online courses demand much more writing than face-to-face courses (writing assignments, discussion boards, email)
  • good reading and writing skills are essential to do well in an online course
"I like working alone"
  • although there is no face-to-face contact, there is more interaction with the instructor and other students than in a lecture class and group work is common (although, interestingly, studies show introverts to have been success with online learning)
  • online courses are not "self-taught," but, as in a face-to-face course, are taught by an instructor
"I am good at computers"
  • (see solutions in Computer Literacy)