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Ainsley Schuler April 23, 2018

Valued for their accessibility, enrollment in distance education courses has increased markedly over the last several years. According to a report published in December 2017 by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, more than 6.3 million college students took advantage of distance education course offerings in the Fall of 2016. This corresponds to nearly one in three college students taking at least one online class. As the the popularity of these courses continues to rise, there are several things prospective students should keep in mind as they enroll in online classes.

The first thing students need to keep in mind before enrolling online is that not all online classes are transferrable. Very simply, some colleges still don’t see online courses to be equivalent to those traditionally offered on-campus. This policy differs from college to college, but generally speaking, public universities and colleges tend be far more accepting of distance education credits than smaller private institutions. For example, Amherst College in Massachusetts explicitly states, “[Transfer] Credit is not awarded for the following: …On-line courses.” After reviewing the policies of several colleges, this seems to be fairly standard practice for more prestigious schools. However, there are a few selective-colleges that seem to be a little more open-minded. For instance, Grinnell College says, “Grinnell usually does not award course credit for work done through distance learning….” What this all boils down to is, if you’re planning on transferring to another college after DMACC, make sure you check their policies on granting credit for distance-education courses, because they can vary greatly.

The second suggestion I have is simple. If you decide to take an online course, make sure you keep copies of everything. That means keeping copies of the syllabus, all assignments completed during the class, all grades, and even any comments your instructor may have made on an assignment. Many transfer institutions will ask for example coursework completed in your transfer courses when evaluating their worthiness for credit. This is especially true if you want to transfer a course that’s related to your major. So have this organized, and stored some place just in case. If applying for transfer to a private college, it’s also fairly common to have to submit an example writing piece that includes both a grade and any comments made by your professor, so keep that in mind as well.

The next tip is that online courses are not necessarily easier than on-campus sections. Online courses do typically offer more flexibility in scheduling, but students tend to underestimate the amount of time they will need to learn the material in the absence of the formal class meetings. So depending on your proficiency with learning the material, you can easily end up spending more time trying to understand a competency in an online course than you would in the equivalent on-campus section. This also means that certain subjects tend to offer themselves better to the online format than others.

The final suggestion I have is fairly straightforward. Put in the effort you would in any other class. It’s been my experience that online students regularly seem to put in the least amount of effort they can muster. The fact is, as the student, it’s your job to get the most out of the course that you can. You’re paying for it, and typically at a higher rate than the on-campus options, so get your money’s worth. Put actual effort in exceeding the competencies. If at all possible, meet your instructor during one of their office hours. Respond to your peers in the discussion boards, and actively engage in discussions. Yes, I know you can probably float by just

fulfilling the bare minimums and pass, but I know if you put in just a little extra effort, you’ll come away better for it.

I recognize that for many people, online classes are the preferred choice. As such, I urge those of you interested in taking distance education courses to consider these tips before and during their online enrollment.

 

Recap of tips for students thinking about distance-education options:

* If you are planning on transferring at any point, make sure to check that institution’s policy beforehand. Many programs will not accept online coursework.

* Generally, courses that are accepted for credit by the offering institution’s program, and that require proctor exams are more likely to be transferrable.

* Keep all work, syllabi, gradebooks, and instructor comments.

* Online courses aren’t always easier than on-campus ones.

* Some subjects lend themselves to the online format better than others.

* Don’t procrastinate.

* Put in more than the bare minimum. You’ll be grateful.

* If possible, get to know your professor via office hours, and regular course engagement.

 

Matt Harm

Hons. Program Exec. Officer, Ambassador 2017-18

Ankeny & Boone Campuses

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