is-class-size-important-in-online-collegeWith the growing popularity of the Internet, colleges have taken the opportunity to reach a group of potential students who can’t always attend regular classes, and many distance learners wonder if online college class size plays a part in the quality of education. Online class sizes are about the same as in-person class sizes because this factor helps determine college accreditation.

The Role Online College Class Size Plays

The truth is that smaller classes usually result in a higher-quality education, and in many states, lawmakers have mandated class size limits for kindergarten through 12th grade students, generally improving test scores in schools most affected by the regulations. Smaller colleges where tuition and admissions requirements are higher typically have better student engagement than larger public colleges, although the grades at these schools aren’t necessarily higher because professors tend to grade more harshly.

Resource: Top 20 Online Colleges with High Return on Investment

In most large public schools, in-person class sizes for first- and second-year courses can reach more than 200 students, but the numbers decrease as students reach the third year and begin to take more specialized courses. Online classes follow the same pattern, and freshman and sophomore classes tend to be much larger than junior and senior classes. The difference between an online course and an in-person course is that more responsibility is placed on the student in distance learning. However, professors still have the same availability as in traditional brick-and-mortar colleges, and many resources are available for online students to stay actively engaged in their education.

How Online Colleges Help Students Succeed

Internet colleges often have mentoring programs to help students through the process, and many schools offer self-paced programs to give students flexibility in completing coursework. Lectures and labs are held during live group sessions so that all students can log into a Web portal and participate in the lesson. There is not much difference between attending classes online or in person, except that the professor and students can’t actually see each other. Attending Web-based lectures is similar to having a group chat on Skype or Google, and when you have a question, you can just type it into the chat dialog box or click the button that alerts the professor. There are some differences between Internet and in-person classes that simply can’t be removed, which is why not all degrees are offered online. Natural science and engineering degrees usually can’t be completed online, although traditional brick-and-mortar colleges offer many of these courses over the Internet to supplement students’ in-person education.

Some Web-based courses require students to take timed, proctored exams, so they must go to a testing center a few times during the semester. For self-paced courses, students can usually choose the dates of their exams, although larger class sizes tend to make some testing times harder to reserve than others. Because distance learning is more efficient than in-person learning, class size may be less important, but it still does matter. Professors can be stretched too thin when teaching too many courses in a semester, and this level of distraction definitely affects learning outcomes. The best approach is to read online reviews of the professor before enrolling in a course.

Distance learning is a viable alternative to in-person learning, and an Web-based degree is just as valuable as a traditional degree. If you’re worried about online college class size, talk to a counselor, the admissions department or students at your school to hear their opinions.

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