Online classes offer increased flexibility and the convenience of completing school at home. However, you may miss out on some of the social interaction and instructor feedback available in traditional classrooms. Some students mistakenly believe that online courses are easier or less rigorous than traditional classes. This is not typically the case. In fact, online and traditional classes share a number of common elements.

Reading and Assignments

You don't get out of the work by taking classes online. In fact, more of the burden for acquiring knowledge falls on you. In either format, college students are generally expected to spend six to nine hours outside of each class reading, completing regular homework assignments and studying. Online students typically have to spend time going through instructional PowerPoints and videos to cover what students gain from class lectures.

Materials and Testing

You typically need similar materials for referencing and studying whether in-class or online. Textbooks provide the key source of thorough class-related content. While traditional class instructors may refer to and utilize textbooks in class, the primary purpose of a college course text is for self-study by students. If the campus version of a particular course includes tests, you can expect to also take tests in the online version. You normally complete them through an online class portal with an established time limit once you enter the test file.

Teacher Accessibility

Communicating with your teacher is typically easier and more common on campus. However, online and traditional classes both provide mechanisms through which students can interact and get help. On campus, students can talk informally with instructors before and after class, ask questions during class and stop by during office hours. Online students can call or email instructors, and sometimes use cellphones to text.

Discussions and Collaboration

Discussions and teamwork are common in classes regardless of the format. In traditional classes, you normally listen to lectures from instructors, but you also get a chance in many classes to offer ideas and discuss topics. Campus classes also usually include team activities or projects. Online classes include discussions as well, but they take place through online discussion forums. The conversation also tends to play out over time as students periodically check for new posts and reply. You may also have team assignments online, but you communicate through discussion forums, via email and through mobile devices.