Online Courses To Consider Taking Over Spring Break

By Alicia Geigel on March 21, 2020

Usually, around this time of year, students are focused on passing midterms and finishing the remainder of the semester strongly before the summertime comes. Many students also take this period of time during spring break to look through a course list and try to put together a class schedule for next semester, or even the summer, that reflects both their interests and includes the necessary course fulfillments.

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 or the coronavirus, colleges and universities across the country are shut down and switching to virtual teaching/learning for at least the next few months, if not more, as a means to slow the transmission of the virus. With a a majority of college students at home, many are weighing their options as to what online courses to consider taking both in the upcoming months, and even into the next semester in the fall. This is unique and vastly different than anything our colleges have seen before in recent history, making now the perhaps the best time to dig deep and consider what courses to take online.

Given this specialized situation, students have to shift their focus from traditional-style classrooms to online learning, but the selection process is not much different than picking the standard traditional classes!

When considering courses, trying to blend all of your interests while also trying to figure out major obligations, especially on a deadline, can be a breeze for some and a nightmare for others. Piecing together a schedule of courses all while taking into consideration day of the week, time, location, etc. makes choosing courses even more of a hassle. However, online courses eliminates the stress of putting together a schedule that doesn’t overlap, and also gives you better control over how you spend your time.

If you’re someone who has never taken courses online, you may feel unsure or uneasy about the teaching and the learning process, but there are plenty of resources to help you as you consider which courses to take. Are considering taking online classes but are not exactly sure how the selection process goes? Check out my comprehensive guide below!

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Image via Pexels

What to Know About Online Courses: 

1. Selecting the course: If you are new to taking courses online, you may be wondering how to select the right courses for you. My advice is to first, schedule an appointment with an advisor whether it be in person or over the phone. Talking with an advisor about whether taking classes online is right for you and what kind of classes you want to take is a great start to understanding how online courses work.

Second, after meeting with your advisor, carefully select your courses based on what will be best to take online. Perhaps you have a GenEd course that makes more sense to take online than in a classroom, or an elective you need to meet your required number of credits for graduation. Regardless of your reason, make sure you check to see if there are any pre-requisites or other limiting requirements before you enroll in the course! Now that you’ve picked your class or classes, you can delve right into the learning process!

2. Attendance: Part of the reason why online classes are so great is due to the fact that attendance is not as strict and rigid as regular classroom attendance. In contrast to the traditional classroom method, most online courses do not typically hold attendance. Instead, credit is given in the form of either weekly quizzes, discussions, or assignments.

Some online courses, depending on which kind you choose, can hold sessions weekly at a specific time, which in that case, attendance would be mandatory in order for you to engage effectively in the course. Regardless of the online course you select, you are in control, which means you can decide whether you want a more open course or a rigid one with exact times!

3. Learning method: When it comes to online courses, most likely you will have an instructor who posts weekly recorded lectures. Recorded lectures are beneficial to your learning process because not only are you able to rewind/pause/etc. the lectures if you miss an important segment, but you also can have access to previous lectures throughout the duration of the semester! This is a major help when it comes time to take midterms and finals, or just when you’re preparing for homework.

4. Discussion posts: A large, important portion of taking classes online are discussion boards. The reason why most online instructors require weekly participation through discussion posts and responses is because there is not another effective way for students to engage with not only each other but also the instructor.

Discussions allow for you to share your knowledge of the topics and lessons of the week as well as bring forward any questions you wish to ask fellow students. In most cases, instructors will ask a prompt and require you to answer the prompt based on the knowledge of the lessons given that week. Following your response, instructors typically request that you respond to another student’s answer to the prompt with either an agreement, disagreement, or another question.

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What Online Courses to Take: 

In terms of a course catalog, there are many interesting and unique courses to take online. Some courses online may not be offered in a traditional classroom setting, or vise-versa, so there can be plenty of variety in your class schedule. When building a class schedule there are usually three categories that make up the courses necessary for you to fulfill your chosen major: GenEds (general education courses), Electives, and Core Courses. Typically there will be courses within all three of these categories that you can opt to take online, its just a matter of checking in with an academic advisor or dean to see if this is possible, and most importantly, if you can get the appropriate credits for taking the course. In a lot of scenarios, you will find that picking the right courses is easier than you previously thought!

GenEds: 

In the college world, general education courses conjure up strong opinions. A lot of students view these courses as unnecessary or boring, but these requirements won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

According to Laura Melega of Study.com, general education courses “are typically designed to teach diverse skills that every person should master in order to lead a productive life, become a knowledgeable citizen, and communicate ideas as a useful member of society, regardless of her chosen course of study.” Essentially, colleges strive to make their students well-rounded individuals, giving them a comprehensive education that can benefit them both in and out of college. GenEds are required by most colleges/universities, and primarily focus on building specific skillsets like critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and more. Some general education topics include the following:

  • Arts & Humanities: In this category, you could take courses that center around music, theater, dance, and visual arts.
  • English Language/Literature: English is one of those subjects that you will see consistently in your college experience, whether you are a engineering major or education major. In the English GenEd, you can take courses that focus on analyzing and appreciating different types  of literature.
  • Foreign Language: Having knowledge and literacy of a foreign language makes you a more well-rounded and cultured individual, which looks great in the eyes of both colleges and even employers. Many colleges offer a variety of different language, like Spanish, Italian, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Depending on your level of knowledge/familiarity with a language (perhaps from high school experiences), you can take beginning or advanced level courses.
  • History: History is another way to connect people together through cultures and traditions, and depending on your major/concentration, the number of history-related GenEds can vary. Typically, you can anticipate history courses that center around different aspects of world history, western civilization, or the United States.
  • Math/Science: If you’re a STEM major, you will most likely have a lot of math/science courses you need to take to fulfill your general education requirements. If you’re not a STEM major, you might think that you’re off the hook and don’t have to take any math or science related courses, but that usually isn’t the case. Even if you are a political science major (like I once was), you still have to take a math and science course. There are several different courses you can take, ranging from college algebra, environmental science, business math, etc.
  • Social Sciences: In social sciences, people examine society and human interactions between one another. Courses under this category can include introduction to sociology or public speaking.

Because there are so many courses that fall under the general education category, you can bet to find ones that appeal to you online. Whether its a math course you’ve been putting off for a few semesters or an english literature course that sounded interesting to you, the options are endless. You can even opt to take a GenEd course online through a local community college during the summer if you have the time and ability to do so. Be sure to check with an advisor just to make sure there aren’t any requirements or prerequisites before enrolling!

Electives:

When thinking about academics, especially in college, electives are the things that get everyone excited. They are usually viewed as fun or interesting courses that students can take to explore different areas of interest that appeal to them. There are also situations where students randomly pick electives just to fill up their course schedule, but I encourage you to dig deep into courses available online and explore different areas that you otherwise wouldn’t look into. When looking to pick electives online, consider the following:

  • Take Something You Always Wanted To: College is an amazing opportunity to go outside your comfort zone and pick up courses that you maybe didn’t have the chance to or couldn’t before. If you want to enroll in a film class, do it! Maybe you love makeup, music, or business- considering adding a course to your schedule! Not only can an elective broaden your knowledge of an unfamiliar topic, but it can also give you a break from the heavy and repetitive coursework you’re completing for your major.
  • A Class Format That Works for You: Not all courses can be offered online, but electives are something that you will hardly run into trouble finding online. As stated earlier, online classes are great because you have greater freedom and more control over your time/how it is spent. Robyn Scott of CollegeXpress writes, “If a student is working a part-time job to supplement their education, they may find that it makes life easier to take their electives online, if they’re offered in that format. Online classes still have due dates but generally don’t require students to attend class at a specific time, which allows them to work their assigned shifts.”

Electives, though required, are also a fun way to venture out and discover perhaps a new passion for an area of study that you wouldn’t have previously. Taking a number of interesting electives also can also have an impact on how you are viewed by employers, as they can see you are more well-rounded!

Core Courses: 

Last but not least, there are the core courses or degree requirements. These courses are key components required for you to complete your degree and fulfill your major. For example, as a political science major, I took several government-related courses, from the American Political System to the Constitution to Comparative Politics. All of these courses were necessary for me to complete my degree, and I was able to take some of them online as well. If you like to take courses online, consider looking for core courses to make life easier for you.

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Image via Pixabay

Though taking courses online is not for everyone, if you find yourself in a situation where it works for you or is necessary, go for it! Do not let the fear of going against the traditional college experience keep you from doing what works best for you. The opportunity to take courses online allowed me to be more selective of my time and use it as wisely while I was in college. As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | writer at Top5Must & KnowPhilly | photographer | food blogger

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