Know the Difference Between In-Person, Online, and Hybrid Courses

One of the many perks of college is that, to some extent, you can choose which style of course is the best fit for you. It’s important to grasp the difference between in-person, online, and hybrid courses so that when given the opportunity, you can choose the one that matches your preferred learning style. For example, in-person classes encourage a high level of collaboration and in-class participation, while online courses require you to vigilantly keep up with the assignment schedule, and hybrid courses ask a bit of both from students.

When deciding what classes to take, it’s key to know the difference between in-person, online, and hybrid courses. Keep reading to learn more.

In-person courses offer face-to-face contact with professors and fellow students

In-person classes allow you to interact face-to-face with your peers and professors, and to collaborate with them on a set schedule. You’re probably used to this style of course from your many prior years of schooling, so it can feel comfortable and familiar. In-person classes vary depending on the subject matter and instructor, but typically you’re required to meet two to three times per week for a set amount of time. While all classes differ, you’ll generally be given a participation score for this course that can consist of in-class participation and attendance. You’ll also likely have in-class group assignments that may or may not count for a grade. In-person classes foster a more personal connection with your classmates and professor.

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Online courses provide flexibility and foster self-motivation skills

Online courses don’t always require a set meeting time each week, but they do have weekly required assignments, such as readings or discussion board posts. This class option is appealing since there’s no specific time each week that you must be sitting in a classroom. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that online courses require a level of motivation that in-person classes may not. In this style of course, it’s up to you to set aside structured time to complete all required assignments. Be sure to keep up with the syllabus, because you likely won’t have an instructor reminding you of deadlines each week like you might in an in-person class. Since you won’t be participating in-person, professors often gather participation grades through weekly discussion board posts. Create a calendar for your online course at the beginning of the semester and outline all due dates. If you choose to sign up for an online class, be prepared to stay on track with assignments and due dates in order to set yourself up for success.

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Hybrid courses involve aspects of both in-person and online courses  

A hybrid course brings together the main attributes of both types of  classes. Hybrid courses involve online aspects that are meant to complement the in-class portion of the course, such as discussion boards and video-geared assignments. Some of the characteristics of a hybrid course are very similar to online courses; the difference, though, is the online part of the course is not meant to replace the in-person interactions. It’s structured in a way so that it adds to and complements what students learn and discuss in-person. With a hybrid course, students still have the ability to interact face-to-face with peers and to make themselves known to their professor, while enjoying some of the flexibility of an online course.

Hybrid courses are not offered for every subject, and the structure will vary by instructor and department. If you select a course that’s listed as a hybrid, feel free to reach out to the professor to inquire about the planned structure of the course to see if it matches what you’re looking for.

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How to know whether an in-person, online, or hybrid course is right for you

Understandably, you don’t always have the ability to select the style of course to take for a specific subject matter. When you do have the option, however, it’s important to choose the one that fits your learning style best. For example:

  • Do you have a difficult time staying focused and motivated when working on assignments on your own time? An online class may prove challenging for you, while an in-person class may fit your needs.

  • Do scheduling flexibility and looser time constraints appeal to your lifestyle? An online class may be the right match for you.

  • If you like both the personalized aspect of in-person classes and the flexibility of an online course, a hybrid course could set you up for success.

Be honest when examining your strengths and weaknesses in terms of class structures, and determine what style of course will help you achieve your educational goals.

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