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How to Take Online College Classes

By DeVry University

March 31, 2022

5 min read

Taking online college classes is a lot like taking in-person classes; you still have a professor, homework and classmates, but you also have the flexibility to study where you want, and when it’s most convenient for you.

Taking college classes online is a great way to further your education while maintaining your current schedule and responsibilities, but if you've never taken online college classes before, you might have questions about how classes are set up and whether enrolling in them is the right move for you.

How Long do Online College Classes Take?

In general, online college classes will often take the exact same amount of time as their in-person counterparts, since online classes typically follow the same schedule.

At DeVry, our online classes take the same amount of time to earn as our in-person classes, which is eight weeks.

Tips for Taking Online College Classes

While taking an online class is in many ways similar to taking an in-person course, there are a few differences that you should be prepared for. Here are some tips for taking online college classes:

    • Stay organized:
    • Because you’re not attending classes in person, it's important to create a schedule for yourself to help you stay on track while taking online college classes.
    • Time management skills:
    • Online classes may require a greater amount of time management skills than in-person courses. Make sure to be responsible with your time and try not to put things off until the last minute.
    • Keep an “on-campus” mindset:
    • Taking online classes isn't the "easy way" to earn a degree. Put the same amount of attention and effort into your online college classes as you would an in-person course to help keep yourself on track and keep yourself set up to do well.
    • Participate in class:
    • Invest in yourself and your class by participating as much as possible. Being more involved can help you internalize concepts more thoroughly, give you opportunities to ask questions as they come up and connect with your classmates and your professor.
    • Ask for help when you need it:
    • If a concept is challenging, there's no need to work on it alone. Contact your professor or classmates to make your online learning experience more collaborative or reach out to any tutoring services your school offers.
    • Minimize distractions:
    • If you’re taking online college classes at home, chances are there are going to be a few distractions. If you're able, put your phone in another room and avoid studying in front of the television to help you focus more intently.
    • Network with your classmates and instructors: 
    • A collaborative environment can be great for learning, and for making connections. Try to get to know your professors and classmates to broaden your social and professional circles.

    • Don’t take too many classes at once:

    It can be tempting to try and earn your certificate or degree faster by taking as many classes as possible during each cycle. However, you should be cautious. Taking too many classes at one time may be overwhelming, add unnecessary stress or lead to burnout.

What is the Workload for an Online College Course?

The workload for an online college course is identical to that of the same in-person college course. How many weekly sessions you need to attend and the amount of homework you have will vary from class to class. In general, classes that are worth more credits tend to have heavier workloads than those that are worth fewer credits.

Do You Have to Attend Virtual College Classes Online?

The attendance requirements for your classes will depend on your professor and will most likely be outlined in the course syllabus. In some cases, the professor may count attendance as part of your grade. That said, attending as many of your online college classes as you can is a smart way to set yourself up to do well in your program.

At DeVry, a majority of our courses are taught in an asynchronous format, meaning that you can attend class and complete your coursework when it works for you, as long as it’s during the predetermined date range.

How are Exams Taken in Online College Classes?

The exact way that exams are taken and administered will vary from class to class and among schools. Some tests maybe be administered using webcam or screen monitoring or may be timed to help ensure integrity.

At DeVry, our online Learning Management System, Canvas, has exams installed into the course shell for each online class.

Pros and Cons of Taking Online College Classes

Like many things, there are benefits to taking online college courses as well as some potential disadvantages. Keep in mind that every student’s experience is personal, and things that might be considered a disadvantage by some may not be seen as a problem by others.

Here are some potential benefits and disadvantages of taking online college classes:


    • Greater flexibility for your schedule
    • No commute to classes
    • Opportunity to develop self-discipline


    • More reliance on personal time management skills
    • Less face-to-face interactions with professors and classmates
    • More potential distractions during class and study time

It's also worth noting that many of the challenges you may come across during an online class can be overcome with focus, grit and personal determination.

Explore Online College Classes at DeVry

Now that you know more about how to take online college classes, it's time to find the program that's right for you. Browse our catalog of online college courses or read more about how online education works to get a sense of what to expect from an online class.

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