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Is Online Learning Right For You?

online students

The following should help you learn about the different types of online programs and the characteristics that are typical of successful online learners.

Characteristics of Successful Students Who Learn Online

Online learning has many advantages, including increased flexibility in completing homework assignments, the ability to communicate with your classmates and your instructor from the convenience of your own home or workplace, and enhanced access to written materials ranging from discipline-specific Internet resources to saved chats and instructors' class announcements. 

However, online learning is not for everyone. For instance, if you need the discipline of meeting on campus and you enjoy the in-person interaction with other students and your instructor, you are more likely to succeed in a hybrid or traditional campus-based class. 

A Successful Online Learner...
  • is self-motivated (does not need a lot of direction or motivation from a teacher);
  • is self-disciplined (can budget time wisely and does not procrastinate often);
  • enjoys the challenge of learning on her/his own (likes to read and learn);
  • takes charge of her/his own learning (willing to ask questions and seek help when necessary);
  • communicates well in writing;
  • may need a flexible schedule, but understands that flexibility does NOT mean the course will be easy.

How can the different delivery methods benefit me?

  • Online

    In an online course, instruction, learning activities, and interactions between faculty and students take place online on a dedicated course website. Taking an online course has many advantages, including increased flexibility in completing homework assignments, the ability to communicate with your classmates and your instructor from the convenience of your own home or workplace, and enhanced access to written materials ranging from discipline-specific internet resources to discussions and instructors’ announcements. However, an online course is not for everyone. For instance, if you need the discipline of meeting on campus several times a week and you enjoy the in-person interaction with other students and your instructor, you are more likely to succeed in a regular classroom or hybrid course format.

    Many online courses may require you to come to take proctored exams. These exams can be taken onsite at the HCC Test Center, at an approved alternative location or via a virtual proctoring service. A basic understanding of the internet and web browsing are required. Online course activities may be completed at any location with a computer and internet connection. Online courses begin when the regular courses begin. When online course registration is complete, you may log on to your password-protected course website beginning on the first day of the semester. 

  • Hybrid

    A hybrid course is conducted using a combination of campus and online instruction. It is an ideal combination of classroom interaction with the use of online resources. Because so many of the course interactions are conducted online, the amount of class meeting time is a percentage of the traditional onsite version of the course. For online course interaction, a basic understanding of the internet and web browsing are required. Online activities may be completed at any location with a computer and internet connection. 

  • Open Entry

    An open entry course allows shorter completion times, drop-in hours, and various places where you may complete your work. Many of the Computer Systems (CMSY) and Office Technology (OFFI) courses are offered in this format. 

    There are many advantages to taking an open entry course. For the majority of the courses, you may start at the beginning of the traditional semester or you may enroll later and start later. You can complete the course as quickly as you are able to do the work. These courses do not follow the structured lecture-style classroom format. The Office Technology classroom (DH-301, 443-518-4876) is staffed with certified instructors to help you, one-on-one, any time the classroom is open. You may vary your hours from week to week and attend class as often as you wish. You may do all of the work for this course at home (except tests).

    Test and assignment deadlines are effective as soon as your course begins (either when the semester begins or the day you enroll, whichever is later). Many of the courses offered in Office Technology may be taken online, following the same format as the open entry courses, except that the online sections are only offered twice a year. As an online student, you may do the work at home (except for tests) or in the Office Technology classroom. Immediately after enrolling in one of the online courses, submit an Office Technology pre-semester notification form to receive specific course instructions the week classes begin. 

  • FastTrack

    FastTrack courses concentrate the coursework of a traditional 14-week semester into a shorter period of time: 7, 6, 5, 4 or fewer weeks. Classes meet primarily on Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays.


Learn More About Online Learning

  • Take the Survey

    How Do You Learn?

    Using the questions below test yourself to see if you would be a successful online learner.

    Choose one answer for each question, then read the explanations and scoring procedures.

    1. My need to take this course now is:

    a. High:  I need to take it immediately for a degree.
    b. Moderate:  I could take it on campus later, or substitute another course.
    c.  Low:  It's a personal interest that could be postponed.

    2. Feeling that I am a part of a class is:

    a. Not particularly necessary to me.
    b. Somewhat important to me.
    c.  Very important to me.

    3. I would classify myself as someone who:

    a. Often gets things done ahead of time.
    b. Needs reminding to get things done.
    c.  Put things off until the last minute.

    4. Classroom discussions are:

    a. Rarely helpful to me.
    b. Sometimes helpful to me.
    c.  Almost always helpful to me.

    5. When an instructor hands out directions for an assignment, I prefer:

    a. Figuring out the instructions on my own.
    b. Trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed.
    c.  Having the instructions explained by the instructor.

    6. Being in the same classroom with my instructor is:

    a. Not important to me, as long as I have access to the instructor.
    b. Somewhat important to me.
    c.  Very important to me.

    7. Considering my professional and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on a course is:

    a. 7-9 hours per week.
    b. 4-6 hours per week.
    c.  1-3 hours per week.

    8. When I am asked to use computers, voice mail, or other technologies that may be new to me:

    a. I look forward to learning new skills.
    b. I feel apprehensive, but try anyway.
    c.  I put if off or try to avoid it.

    9. As a reader:

    a. I usually understand the text without help.
    b. I sometimes need help to understand the text.
    c. I almost always need help understanding a college text.

    10. If I have to go to campus to take exams or attend review sessions:

    a.  I can get to campus almost any time.
    b.  I work during the day and can only get to the campus in the evenings or on weekends.


    Add 3 points for each "a" that you circle, 2 points for each "b," and 1 point for each "c."  If you scored over 25 points, these courses are a real possibility for you.  If you scored between 15 and 25 points, they may work for you, but you may need to make some adjustments to succeed.  If you scored 14 or fewer points, these courses are probably not a suitable option for you.

    1. Unless you have compelling reasons for completing a course, coursework is often neglected because of personal or work circumstances.
    2. Some students prefer to learn independently, while others find it too difficult.
    3. These courses give you greater freedom to schedule your work, but they also require more self-discipline.
    4. Some people learn best by interacting with other students.  Online learning provides considerable interaction.
    5. Online learning require you to work from written directions without face-to-face explanations by the instructor.
    6. With interactive TV classes, the instructor may be physically in another classroom and even in another city; however, you have full access to him/her, as the classroom is equipped with two-way interactive video and audio. Online instructors use a variety of technologies to interact with their students
    7. These courses require at least as much time as that required for attending classes and completing assignments for campus courses.
    8. These courses use a variety of technologies for teaching and communicating.
    9. Written materials are the primary source of directions and information in online courses. 
  • Checklist for Registered Students

    Students will be given access to their online and hybrid course sites on the first day of the semester. To determine the specific start date of your course please refer to Howard Community College's Academic Calendar. Below is important information that will help you prepare for the start of your online or hybrid course.

    Before Class Starts

    1. Confirm Online Learning Technical Requirements

    Online learners will need to have appropriate computer hardware and software as well as a high-speed internet connection to be successful. Prior to the start of your class be sure to assure that your particular computer configuration adhere's to HCC's minimum Technical Requirements.

    2. Logging Into Canvas

    HCC uses the learning management system Canvas to serve online, hybrid and supplemental course sites to students.  Students will login to Canvas through HCC's Single Sign On services using their HCC Login ID. This ID has been provided via an email from Information Technology and will serve as your login information for a variety of services across campus. 

    Steps taken to login to Canvas are dependent upon your student status at HCC (credit, non-credit, or student attending one of our service center locations). Step-by-step instructions for how to login can be found on HCC's Student Training Site page for more information.

    3. Read the HCC Netiquette Statement

    HCC's Netiquette Statement outlines expectations for appropriate interaction in the online and hybrid classroom. Your faculty will expect that you are aware of this information and that you adhere to it.

    The Day Class Starts

    1. Login to Canvas and Access Your Course

    Students login to Canvas using their HCC Login ID via one of these methods:

    2. Read Your Course Description & Syllabus

    The course description includes information about...

    • course objectives,
    • your instructor's name and contact information,
    • course requirements, such as proctored testing (if any),
    • textbooks and materials,
    • course homepage, and
    • technical requirements and plug-ins (download and install as required).

    3. Begin Participating in Activities and Assignments

    The course instructor will provide guidance on how to start participating in your course via an orientation or "getting started" module or by communicating via one of Canvas' many communications tools (announcement or message).  Pay close attention to his/her introductory messages to gain critical information on what you should be doing and where. If you are at all unsure where to begin send your instructor a message via the Canvas inbox and he/she will quickly get back to you with guidance.

    During the Semester

    1. Finding Help For Canvas Use

    A variety of resources are available to assist you in accessing and using Canvas. If you find you are having difficulty access the following resources:

    2. Check Out HCC's Student Support Services

    HCC offers students a variety of support services. Links below provide access to information related to various useful resources:

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