With the spring semester behind us, many students are either already enrolled in a class or looking for something to add to their schedules during the summer term. The idea of a “summer break” from school isn’t the norm anymore. Online options allow you to earn academic credit while also working or traveling.
Most summer terms have already started, but there’s still time to find and register for an accelerated course at many institutions. How can you find a course that’s a good fit?
Online vs. On-Campus
Many online academic programs run through the summer, breaking only for major holidays. And there are several reasons why on-campus students might be interested in access to a summer class via the Web. Some want to get ahead and graduate sooner than anticipated, while others are behind with their degree plans and need to get back on track. Summer terms also offer the opportunity to retake a course in order to improve your GPA, or to try a new subject area.
Online formats add the flexibility and convenience of Internet access, so that students can complete their coursework from virtually any location, and around a summer job or internship schedule. For those new to online learning, choosing this format for a single summer class can be a good way to test the waters.
Find an Online Course
Online courses in general aren’t that hard to find. Selecting one that aligns with your academic program will take a little more time and effort – not just any class will do. Use the following steps to begin your search for summer options as soon as possible:
- Review your degree plan. This may also be called a course audit or degree audit at your school, and can often be accessed online through your school’s student portal. What do you need to take? Where are the gaps? Your best bets here are probably electives. General education courses (for undergraduates) and courses in your major can be more difficult to transfer in and count toward your degree. Keep in mind that every school makes its own decisions about what will or won’t be accepted as transfer credit.
- Check your school’s course catalog. What are the summer term start and end dates? There may be several summer terms that overlap. Are online classes offered? Look for the different types and ways to describe “online” courses, which may include labels like “distance”, “web-based”, “video conference”, etc. Also review the registration process and deadlines for these summer terms.
- Look for courses offered through affiliated schools. Your college or program may already have articulation agreements with local institutions, such as community colleges, branch campuses in the university system, and other online education providers. These agreements can mean pre-approval for specific classes or a more streamlined process for reviewing and accepting transfer credits.
- Search for online courses from other schools. Research the requirements for taking a course in a school other than your own, and transferring the credit to count toward your degree. Accreditation plays a key role in transfer decisions and the approval process takes time. You may also need to request course descriptions and syllabi, and fill out a request form to get the review started. What can you expect after taking the course? Credits may be accepted for transfer to your home institution, but not accepted as a replacement for a course you are required to take, for example. This new school will also have a process in place for admitting you to attend as an online, for-credit student.
- Talk with your academic advisor. Last but certainly not least, seek professional guidance. Online courses, courses of any kind really, are expensive, so make sure any class you take is going to be a good investment in terms of time and tuition. Will it help you meet degree requirements? Will your program accept the course as part of your degree? Better to have approval in advance than risk taking an “extra” class that won’t help you reach your goals.
An on-campus student recently attended our Inside Online Learning Twitter chat and asked the group how to find an online class for the summer. He needed to complete credits in order to graduate on his planned timeline. This was going to be his first online class, so there was a lot of helpful advice given, along with a few follow-up questions to better define the student’s need and motivation for online learning.
- Make sure your computer and Internet connection are adequate. Most schools offering online courses provide basic technology guidelines for students that include recommendations for hardware, software, and Internet access.
- Set aside a place where you can study. Whether you plan on connecting from libraries and coffee shops or from a quiet corner somewhere in your home, have a plan for where you’ll participate in your online class.
- Establish a specific time for studying. Most summer classes are accelerated, taking place in less than a traditional 15-week semester. You’ll find that checking in at least daily is required to stay on track. Block your schedule with uninterrupted time to review your course site and work on assignments.
- Review school policies for online learning. This is especially important if you are taking a class at an institution you aren’t already attending. Become familiar with expectations for student participation, academic integrity, late assignments, and due dates, for example. These may be different from those established at your home institution.
- Be proactive. Ask questions and take responsibility for your learning. Online courses require students to take the initiative to complete the requirements each week. As a general rule instructors would rather you ask too many questions than not enough. Seek out clarification when you need it.
Thanks to @ODU_DL and @jshamsy for sharing their advice during this conversation! You can find more tips for first-time online students in the “How it Works” section of this site.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing summer college classes. The process of finding one that will help you reach your goals can take some time, but a little research and a few conversations can make it all worthwhile.
Source: Inside Online Learning Blog