Table of Contents

USC: Extended University

Information for specific audiences:


FAQs and Facts about Online Courses


Are online courses easier than regular classroom courses?

Definitely not! In fact, many students may feel they are more difficult. While it is true that online courses allow a great deal more flexibility in terms of your schedule, there are real deadlines for reading, participating, and submitting assignments and taking exams—just like any other class. And, like other classes, your experience in an online course will depend greatly on the subject, your own preparation and motivation for taking the class, and other factors outside the class that may affect your abilities to focus on the coursework.


Why do people choose to take online courses?
Online courses may appeal to you if:

  • Your schedule or other commitments prevent you from attending classes regularly.
  • You are located at a distance from campus.
  • You work well independently.
  • You are self-motivated and a self-starter.


What makes a successful online student?
Online courses work best for people who are self-directed, organized, and self-disciplined. Taking an online course is flexible, but it is still a lot of work. You must be able to balance the work with your other commitments. You should have a quiet place to access a computer at home or in a library or other location on a regular basis. While online students may sometimes collaborate with other online classmates, and will receive guidance and support from the instructor, successful online students should also be able to work independently, without close supervision. If you learn best through direct interaction with an instructor and other students, then an online course may not be for you.


How do online courses compare to traditional courses?
Online courses are designed with the same learning objectives, course requirements and standards as traditional courses. The difference lies in the delivery method of the course, and how you interact with your instructor and other members of the class. As an online student you can expect to communicate with your instructor and other students using email and Web-based tools such as Discussion Boards or Chat Rooms. Some courses may require you to sign on at a specific time (to interact “live”) while others allow you to login to the course and complete assignments on a more flexible schedule. Be sure you know and understand the expectations for the course from your instructor.


What computer hardware, software and computer skills will I need?
As an online student you will need access to a computer that is connected to the Internet, and that contains some basic software, much of which is free, such as Java and Adobe Reader. Your computer must have a web browser that is compatible with Blackboard.  Before starting this class, you should know how to use email, attach files to an email, download documents, use a word processing program, locate information online with a browser, and use Blackboard features (which can be learned quickly).  


Other questions?

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