Today, more and more colleges are offering courses to students that are entirely online. Students who are drawn to online courses include students working full-time jobs, students who would prefer a private study environment, or students who find that online courses are easier than traditional (campus-based) courses. Advertisements geared to encourage students to register for online classes have the tendency to portray them as being easier and requiring less work than its campus counterpart. For instance, some television advertisements show students wearing night clothes working in a relaxed environment within their home - free of the pressures caused by deadlines and testing. Despite the fact that online courses and traditional courses generally cover the same material on a given subject—the two are markedly different with regards to technical requirements, social interaction, testing, and practice.
Possessing strong computer skills is one of the fundamental requirements for a student taking an online course. In contrast, traditional courses seldom require the use of computers; instead, online courses are conducted entirely on a computer via the internet. Students must know how to navigate the internet, use email to communicate and submit assignments, and use word processing and other programs required for the specific course. Students who are novice computer users will be at a great disadvantage and likely will not complete the course with a satisfactory grade. Students who possess these skills will be able to excel through online courses with greater ease, and more flexibility than courses taught on campus.
Lack of social interaction is another factor that a student should consider when registering to take an online course. Although there are methods of communicating with fellow students and instructors in online courses, the face-to-face interaction is not present. Many campus-based courses require students to work on activities with partners or in groups which, in turn, increases the chance of students developing meaningful relationships that benefit their academic careers. Students that are more extraverted and thrive on such group interaction will likely find that online courses are a disadvantage to them. On the other hand, students that dread the group interaction and class presentations will find online courses to their advantage simply because they rarely will have to worry about either.
Testing is yet another factor for students to consider when deciding which type of course they will register for. Courses that are on campus rarely allow students to use textbooks, notes, or other materials when taking tests. This means that students have to spend much more time studying in order to recall the material they are being tested on. For this reason, students tend to believe that if they register for an online course...