When considering enrolling in an online academic program for the first time, people often wonder how the experience will compare to taking courses in a traditional on-site classroom setting.

More flexibility and control

One of the biggest differences between online courses and classroom learning is the flexibility that the online format allows.

Courses offered at Penn State World Campus are asynchronous, meaning that you don’t have to be online at any specific time and can complete your assignments and other required course work anytime, on your own schedule, as long as you meet the required deadlines. There may be exceptions in limited, specific situations, such as for public speaking courses where you need to give a presentation or if you need to work on a group project — in which case you may try to coordinate a mutually agreeable time to work online collaboratively in real-time with your other group members.

This format allows for the level of flexibility that busy adult learners need, because you can arrange your schedule in your own way and plan to focus on course-related activities at times that work best for you. 

The online learning environment can also be a great option for students for whom attending classes in a physical classroom environment may not be practical or comfortable, for any number of reasons.

Still plenty of opportunities for social interaction

The asynchronous approach doesn’t mean you will be isolated and on your own, however. Just the opposite — you have many options for interacting with your classmates and other Penn Staters in ways that work for you. Most instructors encourage students to take advantage of conversation-promoting features such as the discussion boards that are built into the Canvas learning management system (the platform used by Penn State for online courses). In fact, discussion board participation is often a required part of course activities and is counted as part of your overall grade. Students may also decide to host virtual study sessions or optional group discussions using Zoom or other platforms.

You can also interact with other students on a social level by joining one of the student clubs or organizations available to Penn State World Campus students. This is a great opportunity to meet people who share common interests or are passionate about some of the same important issues that matter to you.

Time management is essential

Online courses can sometimes require more self-discipline and accountability on the student’s part. Instructors often monitor student progress and may check in to ensure assignments are being completed — and are usually glad to do whatever they can to help students stay on track — but it is ultimately up to the student to manage their workload and keep up with their course responsibilities. Organization is essential, and good time management will be a lifesaver. Fortunately, we have compiled plenty of tips and resources to help with both on our blog, social media channels, and other platforms.

The same academic standards and quality

One thing that isn’t different about online courses at Penn State World Campus compared to on-campus Penn State courses: the quality of the courses themselves. The courses are the same and are taught by the same faculty who teach in the classroom. You will get the same high academic standards you expect from Penn State. That’s because Penn State World Campus is Penn State. There is no difference between World Campus courses and any other Penn State course, except for the platform on which the material is presented.