Do Online Classes Affect My College GPADoes taking classes online affect a student’s grade point average? That question is asked in several different situations. Can poor grades in an online class cause a GPA to tank? Are online classes an easy way to earn needed credits for graduation? Can students use online courses to raise a GPA? The answer to all these questions is yes. Taking online courses can affect a grade record positively or negatively. It depends upon how well students use the option.

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Everything Counts

Grades of all official courses taken by a student are averaged into the GPA. If a student fails or does poorly on just one or two classes, he shouldn’t see much impact. That is also true of “acing” one course online. A dip in a GPA can make getting into grad school or getting a graduate assistantship difficult or impossible. Low GPAs can result in a withdrawn scholarship or prohibit students from being able to transfer to another school. That said, traditional students who take online courses strategically can raise their GPAs and dramatically shorten their time in school.

Use the Tool

An article in the U.S. News and World Report points out that the leap from high school to college is a long one. Many times, study techniques that worked for high school coursework prove inadequate for college-level courses. Sitting in a classroom listening to lectures and assimilating that information into assignments can be daunting. Online classes allow students to spend more time on a lesson if they need it. It also allows them to access other resources such as additional texts. The catch is that students must use the tool correctly. Students who are failing a course might be able to take a similar course online to get the credit. They could also add courses they don’t need for graduation but feel confident about passing as a way to add more high grades into the average. Students should check their college first to see if the class they need is offered online. If not, students must make certain that credits from another school will transfer, and that the grades are weighted the same at both schools. Online junior college courses just might provide the credits needed in an easier-to-understand delivery.

Points to Remember about Online Education

Students who take online courses to raise a sagging GPA should remember that they will be responsible to manage their time well. Having a system is important. Because online students do not have to report at a certain time for class (unless the course is offered in real time), it can be tempting to put off studying or completing assignments. It is just as important to a grade to finish an online assignment on time and to do it completely as it is in a traditional setting. Students who get behind can be overwhelmed. If online courses have discussion forums, it is important to participate in them. It is wise to treat the online study time as a commitment and to make sure other people do not intrude on this time.


Courses taken from virtual universities or online components of a university or college are just as “official” as those earned in via traditional classroom delivery. Used as a tool, they can be a valuable resource and allow students to manipulate their grade averages. Online grades can hurt or heal a GPA.

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