Expectations and Fears for Taking an Online Course in 2024

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: December 8, 2021

With more and more people taking online courses for school and work, you’ll find people that have both certain expectations and fears about this new medium of learning.

As a course instructor, I’m here to give you the insight you need to feel comfortable and confident with your online course.

3 Things to Expect When Taking an Online Course

When it comes to online learning, there are three things you need to know in order to have a successful experience.

1. It’s a Time Commitment

A startled woman looking at her watch

Whether you are taking a full semester online or one training, you’ll need to understand there is a time element.

For every credit, you’ll need to spend two to three hours studying. That means one three-credit course is six to nine hours of focused learning.

The perk of online learning is that you get to decide when to commit those hours for studying.

You can study for two whole days and take the rest of the week off or spread those study hours over a week. It is this flexibility that makes so many people love online learning.

2. You’ll Use Lots of Technology

A woman in front of her computer

You will constantly use technology when taking an online course or program.

Here are some of the basic skills you will need for your class:

  • Typing proficiency
  • Knowing how to navigate the internet and online study resources
  • Using a digital library and finding articles
  • Using email to communicate and send attachments
  • Some form of video call platform

For many, this might be the hardest part of online learning as you will be required to download and install certain software that might be tricky or need further explanations on how to do it.

Most online courses have wonderful tech helpers who are available to answer any questions you might have.

3. You’ll Need Interpersonal Skills

A woman talking in front of her laptop

Just like a traditional classroom, you will be required to interact with other classmates through online discussions or video conferences.

That is where online etiquette becomes so important.

When talking through email or discussion boards, make sure you are doing the following in order to effectively interact with your peers and professors:

  • Use clear and concise language
  • Provide a thorough response
  • Convey the right tone

By doing these three things, you’ll be off to a great start.

3 Fears You Might Have About Online Learning

Man showing unsure gesture

With just about anything new, there is going to be some fear involved. Here are some of the common fears new online students have.

1. It’s Something New and Unknown

If you have never taken an online course, you might have some trepidation when starting. This fear might stem from fear of looking foolish on a video chat, fear of the unknown situations you might find yourself in, and so on.

“The courage to try something new makes me proud.”


Jane Pauley, TV host

One study found that 22% of graduate students learn completely online, which means you aren’t the only one trying something new [1]. With the push for more individuals to pursue education and new technology advances, online learning is something more and more people will begin using.

One way to tackle this fear is to remember that you are not alone, and there are others beginning this journey, too.

2. It’s Not as Good as Traditional Learning

An empty classroom

While online learning has been around for some time, many still feel that it isn’t as helpful as other more traditional programs.

If you take this stance, you might find yourself getting discouraged easily and giving up before giving the program a chance.

To overcome this fear, give yourself a grace period and go all in for the first month or two of the course. You might surprise yourself with how much growth you see.

Just like traditional learning, you will only get out of an online course what you put in. You will need to show up and do the work to see the benefits.

Read More: Benefits of Online Vs Traditional Courses

3. It’s Too Time-Consuming

A laptop with a blank screen

Another fear you might have is that the courses take up too much of your time.

If you are afraid of having to teach yourself all the information, you might fall into this category.

Online courses will require extra time spent studying and learning because of their self-paced concept.

You won’t have a professor standing over your shoulder making sure you do assignments or turn in your work.

Create a schedule that maps out your study schedule and stick to it. This is the best way to get everything you need done within the time you have.

Plans help you prepare for any unexpected occurrences that might derail your online learning [2].

So, What Should Students Expect in an Online Course?

You should expect to work hard, but online learning is worth it. If you are looking to pursue a degree online, there are a lot of factors to consider. The flexibility and convenience factor makes online learning valuable to so many individuals.

We recommend researching the different options and comparing what you find to the various factors that are important to you.

While doing something new can be scary, you won’t regret this decision to invest in yourself.


  1. https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/utepconnect/blog/january-2018/the-who-what-when-and-why-behind-online-education.html
  2. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-planning-scheduling-1084.html


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