What to Expect in Your Online Course

Students unfamiliar with distance education may be asking themselves “How do online classes work?” The reality is that classes are laid out online much the same way they would be in a classroom, it’s just that students don’t have to travel to that classroom to take part. Here is a general overview of what students can expect when taking an online class, from getting started to the basics of completing course assignments.

Logging Into Your Class

To get started with an online class, you will need a newer computer, a reliable internet connection and the required software (visit this webpage to check your system). Once these requirements have been met, you can prepare to start completing your coursework. First, you’ll need to find the link to Pellissippi’s course management system, Brightspace. Under the Resources menu on Pellissippi’s homepage, select the Brightspace link (visit the Brightspace login page now). Here, you will utilize your Pellissippi username and password to enter Brightspace and view your courses. If you need username or password assistance, visit this “Frequently Asked Questions” page for assistance.

If you are enrolled in a TN eCampus course, you will access these using the TN eCampus link under the Resources menu on Pellissippi’s homepage (visit the TN eCampus login page now). In this system you will have a different username and password which are explained on the login page.

Online Courses Are Taught By Real Instructors

If you believe that online courses are a piece of cake and are taught by teachers who have lower expectations than their counterparts in face-to-face courses, you need to change your perspective. Akin to traditional classes, online courses are overseen by real, highly-qualified professors, who are in no way inferior to their counterparts teaching on-ground courses. As an online learner, you need to get this perception out of your mind if you wish to do well in online courses. Although you might not be able to meet them in person, you can interact with them in myriad ways. The only difference is the medium of interaction. Instead of face-to-face interactions, you will mostly be using emails and discussion boards to converse with your online professor.

Listening to and Reading Lecture Material

Just as if you were in a regular classroom, your course will begin by listening to or reading a course welcome and orientation. During these first few days of the semester it’s very important to be sure you understand how the course is structured, what is expected of you and when assignments will be due. This is the time to clarify points you may fully understand. After this, you’ll be reading or listening to lecture material from your professor and in the course textbook. Depending on the course, students may need to listen to or read lectures every day or just once or twice a week. Just like in any other class, students should be taking notes as they go.

Completing Assignments

In most courses, class assignments will be completed or submitted online within the course management software or in the publisher materials adopted by the course. All assignments will come with deadlines and students will need to make sure to upload or complete the work before the deadline if they want to get credit. Most courses will combine shorter assignments or quizzes with larger long-term assignments or exams that will be due at various points during the semester. Students can also expect to be assigned reading material on a regular basis which they will find online or will need to purchase.

Engaging in Discussion

Nearly all online courses will require students to engage in weekly discussions with the rest of the class, the professor or both. This may mean posting to a discussion board or participating in group chats held within a specific date range and time. There may be a prompt for students to respond to or students may be asked to come up with their own discussion topics. It will vary by class and the preference of the professor.

Proctored Exams

If you think that you can more easily cheat on your assignments in online courses, think again. These online courses track your mouse clicks and time on task during assignments through specialized tools in order to maintain academic integrity. This is critical to maintaining the highest quality standards and the reputation of the online platform offering, as well as the credibility of the online course you are taking. Some online courses will require you to complete exams at supervised proctoring sites.

Bottom Line

Listening to and reading lectures, doing homework, handing in papers and talking with your peers – it doesn’t sound so different than any traditional class. In reality, the experience most students have with online education is very similar to attending courses on campus. If you have any questions about how online courses function at Pellissippi State, continue to explore the resources on this website or reach out to an advisor, the course’s department or the distance education director (contact information below).

distance education logo

Dr. Paul Ramp, Director



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