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Online Courses - What They *Don't* Tell You

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

We’ve all heard about online courses; ads tout them as the best way to accrue credits on your schedule, and they seem like a handy and cost-effective alternative to traditional classes. But it’s important to understand what you’re really buying into before you make a commitment.

Even the best, most well-intentioned students struggle to complete online courses. I recently spoke with a parent about her daughter. I have first-hand knowledge that this girl is a serious student: she turns in all of her homework on time, she goes above and beyond in her assignments, and she is never late for class. She had attempted to take online courses early in her high school career because she takes performance classes 3-4 hours every day, making a traditional school day virtually impossible. Online courses seemed like the perfect option. Soon, however, this serious A-student got behind in her coursework and was in danger of failing! When there is no structure, other commitments start to encroach on study time and academics fail.

Beware of missing links and hidden costs! A friend of mine took an online college course a few years back in order to finish her degree. It was in math, which happens to be my area of specialty. We would meet for at least 90 minutes (and often longer) each week in order to go over that week’s lesson and homework sets. In examining the materials provided online, even I would get frustrated with the holes in what was being presented and the poor graphs that were part and parcel of the homework sets. For someone who was not adept at math, it would have been virtually impossible to pass this course without someone reteaching the lesson every step of the way. This is just one of many similar anecdotes that I’ve heard. Many people assume that they’ll have to hire a tutor to supplement the material in an online course, but this defeats the cost-effective aspect.

Know if your credits will transfer. Not all institutions (high school or college) will accept credit from online courses.

Here at The Tutoring School, we’ve blended the best aspects of traditional classroom teaching and advances in technology, creating a new type of online course. The class meets in real time, but on a schedule that works for you. You still have a teacher who responds directly to your questions, aiding your understanding, and you have all of the benefits of working from home. You receive a report card, a transcript for your next school (or college, if you’re graduating), and an internationally-recognized credit from a brick-and-mortar high school that has been in operation for almost 90 years.

So before you enroll for an online course, take a look at your options. Maybe a new spin on an old model is just what you need!