The world of online education is expanding. According to studies by the World Economic Forum, the number of students accessing its online courses is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels. After COVID, students are gravitating toward digital learning and remote or hybrid work options, and it is easy to see why! Online classes give more opportunities for flexibility, affordability, and accessibility. However, it is important to note that if you are considering this dynamic option, you should also be aware of some of the challenges of taking online classes. Tim Ziebarth, dean of the School of Professional and Online Education at Grace College, shares what he sees as the six biggest challenges of taking online classes and how you can successfully overcome them!
Challenge #1: I don’t have time!
A huge benefit of online classes is the flexibility they offer! Got a full house? Finish your work when the kids go to bed! Got a full-time job? Work at a coffee shop before clocking in. This all sounds simple, but the truth is, flexible does not always mean easy. One of the challenges faced by learners is finding additional time. Online classes should offer just as much quality and rigor as traditional classes, meaning that students need to be ready to set aside time to do well.
“It’s easy to snowball very quickly,” says Ziebarth. “In one of our first online courses, we create a time management calendar to help keep this from happening.”
Wondering how to overcome the challenges of taking online classes? The first way is to make a schedule and stick with what works for you. Do you learn better late at night? Set aside time later! If you are a morning person, get up a bit earlier to fit in your work. Online classes are available 24-7, so you can work when the time is best for you. Whatever plan you create, stick to it.
Challenge #2: I’m on my own
Although the online world opens the door to so many connections and opportunities, it can also reveal itself to be a lonely place. One of the biggest challenges of taking online classes is working independently. For some, this may come as a relief (we’re talking to you, introverts!). For others, this may be a huge adjustment. Regardless, being self-motivated is key.
“At Grace, we don’t ever want you to feel alone,” shares Ziebarth. “We tell our professors to humanize the online experience, meaning that their goal is to support you, connect with you, and remain available to you!”
Reach out to your professors and advisors. After all, they care about you! As an advisor himself, Ziebarth has seen the relationships that can form throughout the 2-4 years completing a degree.
“I also recommend creating an academic team,” Ziebarth continues. “Invite a mentor from your church, a colleague from your workplace, your family, etc. to join you in the experience. Bounce ideas off of them, talk to them about adapting your schedule, and include them in supporting you as you balance it all!”
Challenge #3: I can’t afford it!
One of the most basic but relatable challenges of taking online classes can be the expense. Students may be excited about the new opportunity and pursuing an exciting new degree, but then the bill comes and some of that enthusiasm disintegrates. Ziebarth recommends that the best course of action is to plan ahead for it.
“Don’t underestimate local grants, employers, and career paths that give educational benefits,” Ziebarth shares. “You’re getting training that helps your job, so make sure to ask your employer!”
In addition, Grace’s financial aid office is accessible and ready to help you! Make sure to be candid with the admissions department to get the best support possible.
Challenge #4: I can’t do this!
For some, the challenges faced by learners are not external; they’re internal. Many students find themselves intimidated by the online environment. Maybe someone in their life has told them they are not smart enough, or they’ve believed the lie that they don’t have what it takes to succeed. Ziebarth has seen students drown in self-doubt until they just shut down and fall behind.
“I’ve had so many students assume that I wouldn’t want to take their phone call,” Ziebarth says. “That couldn’t be further from the truth! You’ll be surprised to find that our professors are actually very relaxed and relational.”
Ask questions and get help. Don’t discount yourself! This may be different than what you are used to, but with some time and adjusting, you will figure out your own rhythm. Ziebarth says that trying online learning is like kids eating vegetables. They assume they don’t like it, but then they just try it! You just might surprise yourself.
Challenge #5: I don’t have the resources!
It is true that online education does require some technology resources. One of the challenges faced by learners is not considering these requirements before starting classes. In order to be successful, make sure you have internet connection and access to a working computer with a PC running Microsoft Windows® operating system or Mac OS X. The School of Professional and Online Education is dedicated to assisting online students with their technological needs as a means of facilitating a successful educational experience.
“Make sure you prepare to be successful,” shares Ziebarth. “If internet connection is limited where you live, work at your local library or at your workplace after hours. Chat with your advisor or admissions counselor for ideas to make sure your technology needs are met!”
We applaud your persistence as a lifelong learner, and we strive to make sure Grace is an Indiana online college that is accessible to the whole world. Wherever you are, you have a supportive team ready to help you get the degree you need. Start anywhere. Go with Grace.