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What Is the Minumium Time to Spend Weekly for an Online Course?

by Yoon Kim

The answer depends on the course structure, duration and the level of difficulty of the class, as well as the academic readiness of the student. On average, in a five-week online class, you should be willing to spend six to eight hours a week: two hours a week attending virtual classes, held twice a week; one hour posting on the discussion board, requiring two responses to others; one hour reading textbooks and three hours or more doing homework, examinations and other assignments.

Virtual Classes

For a typical class, you will spend two hours a week attending two virtual class meetings. Many online schools utilize synchronous streaming video feeds called “live chats,” while others still rely on asynchronous platforms, such as audio recordings and emails. Just as you need to go to class to learn in a brick-and-motor institution, you need to attend these live chats as virtual classes, although they are often archived for later viewing. Many synchronous platforms allow instant messages. If you have a question while listening to your instructor, you can ask the teacher on the spot, and then the instructor will respond to your question instantly. Such live interaction is vital to your learning, especially since your instructor will often share tips for completing your homework and other challenging assignments.

Discussion Board

Expect to spend about an hour or more per week posting your comments and reactions on a discussion board. Typically, online classes will ask you to respond or peer-critique two other students’ posts on the discussion board. You need to spend some time doing this task as your active participation reinforces the collaborative learning environment, an essential part of online learning, and it takes time to offer constructive, thoughtful comments. The length of your post matters since your comments should not be dismissive and disrespectful. Writing a substantive and well-organized response takes time. Before you can comment on others, you must first digest the gist of the argument and then come up with your own genuine, sincere and original response.

Reading Textbooks

Depending on the level of difficulty of your reading assignment, you should expect to spend an hour or less reading your “eBook,” typically available in the “ebrary” or “cybrary” at your school website. You will be able to access your textbook free of charge as the book is part of your class requirement. In your textbook, you will find answers to your questions, as well as samples of homework and other assignments you will be doing. It is a good idea to preview and review your textbook regularly so that you do not have any questions about what you are learning. This preview and review session will supplement the live chats.

Homework, Exams and Quizzes

You will spend more time per week doing your homework, examination and other assignments than any other learning activities. These tasks may take longer than three hours per week. On average, online schools will ask you to complete one major assignment each week, which might be a three-page essay, an examination or a fifteen-page research paper. Given the importance of these weekly assignments, you need to spend adequate time to do a good job since your academic success depends on your performance.

About the Author

Dr. Yoon Kim earned a Ph. D. in English from Oklahoma State University. His editing experience includes Ph.D. dissertations (English), and senior professor’s research articles (Psychology and Education) that are published in peer-reviewed professional journals.

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