I often hear people ask the question: Are online college classes harder than the traditional in-person classes that can be taken on physical campuses? I can see why this argument is often made – In-person classes require students to attend regularly, take closed book tests, and complete group projects that involve giving a lengthy presentation at the end of the semester.
Although I can’t disagree that the multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank exams are much more difficult when you attend an in-person class, I have to say that online college classes are a lot more challenging that people think. Life took some interesting turns after that and I found myself taking a year off before jumping back into the education world to complete my bachelor’s degree.
Of course there were critics who told me that I wasn’t going to get as good of an education online and that I was missing out on the college experience. I think a lot of online college classes get a bad reputation because of for-profit schools that cost an arm and a leg and have somewhat sketchy accreditations attached to them (I feel like I can say that after working for one for a couple months). I decided to steer clear of those and stick with the nonprofit schools that had an actual physical campus.
After completing the enrollment process and signing up for my classes, I was ready to jump in and get my degree finished. I have to admit that I got by without reading all of my required materials when I went to the on-campus courses.
Not only did I have a weekly discussion question that was straight from the reading (and required at least a few citations), but I also had papers almost every week that required a strong knowledge of the information that was being covered.
On top of my discussions and papers, I had final projects and other assignments that required a lot of work. Although online college classes have professors assigned to them, the reality is that you are doing a lot of the learning on your own. That’s probably why I had to completely change my study habits when I changed to online college classes.

I could no longer rely on the professor to teach me the key points and give me hints at what was going to be on the test.
In fact, most of the exams for my online college classes were in essay format, meaning that I had to apply the concepts I was learning.
I know that there are still plenty of skeptics and critics out there who think that online college classes are not as hard as those you take in-person and on-campus, but I have to say that I disagree.
After having experienced both learning environments, I’ve noticed myself pushing even harder to be a good student in the online classroom because I’m the only one at fault if I perform badly.
So my question is: Why are so many people skeptical and critical about online college classes, and what can be done to give people a better view of them? The primary source of funding for college expenses for most students is through the Federal Student Aid Title IV program. Additionally, these courses typically last 16 weeks, the normal timeframe for a college semester. I originally went to a four-year university in which I completed three of those years on-campus, meaning I sat in an actual classroom with a professor who was physically in the same room (10 points goes to whoever can figure out which school I went to – other articles on this site should give you hints).
I spent a lot of time researching schools and I honestly hadn’t given much thought to enrolling in online college classes, but I finally decided that it was the best option for me. Well, I had already spent three years in the so-called “college experience” so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much.
There are plenty of them in existence today (think Kansas State, North Carolina State, Boston University, and more), so much so that I was surprised I had never considered taking online college classes before. I still had the books and skimmed over them, but I didn’t always sit down every day like I should have to read the assigned chapters that were in big bold letters on my syllabus.
Now, I consider myself a pretty decent academic paper writer, but I had never dug so deep into a text as I did with my online college classes.

Honestly, I feel like I actually gained a lot more knowledge this way because I was forced to focus and understand the information – that was the only way I could actually get the information I needed for my papers and discussion questions. There was no regurgitating information here … you either knew what you were talking about or the paper was going to turn out terribly. There are no weirdly written questions to throw me off – It’s just me, my reading comprehension, and the words that I type in my discussions and projects. I'm Tori and I'm here to help college students and millennials conquer their goals and chase their dreams. The Pell Grant, Federal Work Study (FWS), and subsidized and unsubsidized Direct Loans all fall under FSA.
With a weekly deadline staring me in the face every Sunday, I knew that I was under a constant time crunch to get everything done. When I sat in my on-campus courses, I simply listened to the professor, watched a PowerPoint, and regurgitated the information they fed me. While these options are great (especially the Pell Grant which does not need to be paid back), there are other, lesser-known options available for college students who need financial assistance. I was also working at that time and some days it felt like I had much more to do than was actually possible. In fact, according to Amy Weinstein (2015), your “home state may offer more than you realize” when it comes to educational financial aid.

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