• How Does Online Learning Work?

  • If you are new to online learning, you might be wondering what it will be like and the best way to get started. Drexel University is here to help. Many aspects of online learning look a lot like what you’re used to in a traditional classroom, with the added benefit of learning some cool technology and typically conducting your schoolwork on a much more flexible schedule. And, the best part, you’ll be supported through every step of your academic journey. We have dedicated enrollment counselors who work with you to answer all your questions about the application and admissions process, academic advisors who guide you through course selection and registration, and a host of other resources to support you as you work your way toward your degree.

    As you continue to explore online learning as an option for you, please make sure to check out Drexel’s Online Test Drive. This week-long virtual event lets you try out the online learning platform before you apply. You can upload sample assignments, talk to other prospective students, meet Drexel faculty, advisors, and enrollment counselors through discussion boards, and get a sense of what it would be like to be an online student at Drexel.

    How Online Lectures Work

    Each day you’ll log into Blackboard, Drexel’s online learning platform, and access your most recent lecture, discussion threads, and assignments. While we recommend you access Blackboard from a computer, an app is available to alert you to new assignments and more on your mobile device. This makes it easy and convenient to check in each day.

    Your weekly lectures are accessible through the Blackboard platform and may be delivered in a variety of formats, such as PowerPoint, video, video chat sessions, audio files, or some combination of these. Most of Drexel’s classes are asynchronous, which means you don’t have to worry about logging on and listening to your lectures at a specific time each week. Instead, you can learn when it’s most convenient for you, whether that’s late at night, before work or during your daily commute. If your professor does require synchronous sessions, this will be communicated to you in advance, so you have time to schedule and plan for them.

    We encourage you to talk to your advisor prior to the start of term about the expectations for each class so you are well prepared on day one. You should also make sure to check your syllabus and your Blackboard classroom for homework and project due dates.

    How Do Online Exams Work?

    Most of your online exams are housed directly on Blackboard. They can take a number of formats, including open book tests, simulation activities, and multiple choice tests that are automatically graded as you take them. Other exams might take the form of a PDF, which you’ll be expected to fill out and upload back into Blackboard.

    Most exams will be asynchronous, so you don’t need to worry about taking them at a specific time. Instead, your professors will communicate a time period during which you can take them. Some exams may be timed, beginning from the moment you start taking your test, while others may allow you to complete them over the course of a few days. If your professor prefers a synchronous exam, meaning everyone takes it at a set date and time, this will be communicated with you well in advance.

    In addition to tests and quizzes, some of your classes may require research papers. Deadlines and requirements for your papers will be clearly stated in your syllabus, and you can upload them directly to Blackboard.

    How Long Do Online Classes Take?

    Most online degree and certificate programs offered at Drexel are based on a quarter system, rather than the typical semester system. Each quarter is 10 weeks long, followed by a week of exams. There are four quarters in Drexel’s academic calendar. To learn more, visit our guide to Drexel’s quarter system.

    Drexel University’s College of Medicine and Thomas R. Kline School of Law do operate on a traditional semester-based system. Programs within these two colleges, including online programs, follow a different academic calendar.

    Whether the class is on the quarter or semester system, it’s easy to calculate an estimate of how many hours of work per week a class will require between lectures, homework and studying. One credit translates to one hour of lecture or classwork. Traditionally, professors will also expect you to study about two to three hours per credit hour outside of lectures. This means that if you take a three-credit class, you could estimate spending between six to nine hours per week on homework and an additional two to three hours in lectures or classwork.

    Traditional vs Online Learning

    While online learning contains many elements of traditional learning (you’ll interact with classmates and professors, be expected to turn in papers and homework assignments, etc.), there are some key differences between the two. In many ways, online learning can be a real benefit to students, especially those juggling a family or career with school.

    Unlike a traditional classroom, online classes tend to be more convenient in terms of when you can participate in lectures, classwork, and group assignments. For most online courses, you’ll be able to log on to Blackboard, access your lectures and homework assignments, and work on them when it is most convenient for you. Although we recommend that you log in to Blackboard each day to make sure you don’t miss any important updates, most of your professors will provide a set amount of time to get homework done. This allows you some flexibility around your busy work schedule, taking care of loved ones, or learning during the time of day that’s most convenient for you.

    You’ll upload assignments directly through Blackboard and interact with your professors and classmates through discussion boards and video threads. Your professors are also always available over email, and sometimes over phone or video platforms. Some programs do include in-person residencies, but most are completely online. What makes online learning at Drexel so appealing is that it allows you to pursue the same high-quality Drexel education on your own schedule, without having to come to campus each week.

    How to Succeed in Online Classes

    At the end of the day, the expectations for online classes are similar to in-person classes: you’ll complete homework and tests, submit papers, work on group projects and interact with your classmates and professors. But there are a few skills, like managing your time better and learning smarter ways to study, that can help you become a better online student.

    Our resolutions for online students blog post shares helpful tips on connecting with your classmates and professors, cutting down on procrastination, taking advantage of Drexel resources, and more. Want direct advice from some online Dragons? DrexelNow spoke with four past and present students about their tips and tricks to succeeding in the online classroom.

    Speaking of resources, as a Drexel online student, you’ll have access to many of Drexel’s resources. You can (and should!) take advantage of these resources to help you get ahead in your courses.