The Pros and Cons of Online Courses Outside of Your University

By Amanda Cohen on May 6, 2018

Summer is approaching which means many people are probably thinking about taking online courses. More often than not, students choose to take online courses that aren’t offered by their university because of a variety of reasons—difficult level, timing, convenience, professor, etc. Even though it can be fantastic experience taking an online course outside of your university, it can also be burdensome.

So, how do you decide which route is right for you? Should you take an online course offered by your university or should you take a course that isn’t offered by your university? In order to make an informed decision, here are the pros and cons of taking an online course that is not offered by your university!

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Pro #1: Level of Difficulty

Oftentimes, people will choose to take an online course offered by a community college, which is usually less difficult than an online course offered by a non-community college. I cannot stress enough that there is nothing wrong with attending a community college, I am just saying that the difficulty level is decreased when it comes to online courses. Most people take online courses in the summer, which means they are either using that time to relax or are working vigorously to make some cash. Either way, you don’t want to spend the warm summer days hunched over your laptop in your bedroom for hours on end. Online courses that aren’t offered through your school will allow you to have a better school-work to summertime activities balance.

Con #1: Credit Transfer

I can only speak from my own experiences with credit transferring from out-of-school online courses and it can truly be a nightmare. Even if you read the guidelines carefully and ensure that you are taking an online course at a credit-transferring school, you can still run into issues. To avoid this issue, schedule an appointment with your advisor and walk through everything with him/her. Ensure that all paperwork is filled out and keep all signatures, agreements, etc. in a safe place so that you have sufficient records and proof that you received the “OK” to transfer credit from an out-of-school online course. In addition, receive permission from the university that you are taking the course in to make sure that what you are learning in that course is mostly equivalent to what you would be learning at your own university.

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Pro #2: Making Connections

Taking an online class outside of your university will allow you to foster connections with different schools, different professors, and different students. If you are ever planning on going to graduate school or if you are trying to do some networking during your undergraduate career, taking a course through another university will allow you to get an amazing head start on this. For all you know your online course professor could open the door to you attending their institution for graduate school or maybe they can even write you a recommendation letter for your dream job and/or your dream school. Expand your horizons are try something new. You can come out of this course with a new appreciation for a different teaching style or a different subject matter. Allow online classes to open your eyes to amazing and new opportunities.

Con #2: Fast-Paced Learning

This con is actually true for any online course you may take (whether that be through your university or not). Online courses are always taken over a shorter period of time, but you will learn the same amount of material that you would learn in a semester-long course. If you have trouble with the fast-paced learning environment offered by online courses, either talk to your professor beforehand or reconsider taking an online course in general. If you still want to take the online class, write up a plan once you get the syllabus and make sure that you stick to it. Try to get ahead of your work (especially if your class takes place during a major event in the summer). As long as you’re willing to spend 3-4 hours a day for 4-6 weeks on your work, then you will be able to manage. Remember, it’s only for a short period of time and it will help you get ahead in credits so that you aren’t as stressed during the school year.

Well, there you have it. A nice, digestible list of pros and cons of taking an online course outside of your university. If I were you, I would try to make the whole online course thing work because it does help you lessen your workload during the school year, which makes room for you to maybe graduate early or just have a more balanced and less stressful schedule. Just be sure to have all of your ducks in a row if you choose to take an online class through a different university. Happy summer and, to some, happy studying!

I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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