Resources › For Students and Parents What to Expect in an Online Graduate Class Share Flipboard Email Print Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images For Students and Parents Graduate School Choosing a Graduate Program Tips & Advice Admissions Essays Recommendation Letters Medical School Admissions Homework Help Private School Test Prep College Admissions College Life Business School Law School Distance Learning View More By Tara Kuther, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University M.A., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University Tara Kuther, Ph.D., is a professor at Western Connecticut State University. She specializes in professional development for undergraduate and graduate students. our editorial process Tara Kuther, Ph.D. Updated January 21, 2020 Evolving web technology has made it possible to take a class or even earn a degree from a major university without ever sitting in a classroom. Some students take online courses as part of traditional degree programs, and many times undergraduate courses are taught as both traditional on-ground classes and online classes. Online classes hold some similarities with traditional on-ground courses, but there are also many differences. Depending upon the school, program, and instructor you choose, your online class may entail synchronous or asynchronous elements. Synchronous elements require that all students log in at the same time. An instructor might provide a live lecture using a webcam or might hold a chat session for the entire class, for example. Asynchronous elements do not require that you log in at the same time as other students or your instructor. You might be asked to post to bulletin boards, submit essays and other assignments, or participate with other class members on a group assignment. The Basics of Acing an Online Course Communication with the instructor occurs through: E-mailBulletin boardsChat roomsInstant messageVideo conference (like Skype)Telephone (sometimes) Lectures are taught through: Web conferencesTyped lecturesTeleconferencesBulletin boardsText chatStreaming audioRecorded lectures Course participation and assignments include: Discussion board postsEssay assignmentsConstructing web pagesCreating blogsCollaborating on wiki pagesTests (conducted online) What you need: A computer capable of streaming video and multitaskingPrinterHigh-speed internetBasic computer skills: Internet surf, downloading media, search, emailSelf-discipline and motivationRegular blocks of time How to Know If Online Learning Is Right for You Most online universities offer demonstrations for online courses on their web sites, which allows you to preview the virtual learning experience beforehand. An orientation class may be required by some schools, in which you will meet the instructors, staff, and other students. You will also learn about the technology used, available tools that are needed to get started, and resources available to online students, such as library facilities. Many online degree programs have residencies that require that students come to campus for one or more days every year.