Are Students Able to Ask Questions in Online College Courses?

online-questionsStudents often worry that asking questions in online college courses is simply not possible, since the professor is not in the room and there is no “conversation” or traditional lecture that happens as they learn the material. Though it’s understandable that this concern would be raised among those considering an online education program, there is really very little reason for worry. In fact, the best online programs offer a number of ways for students to voice their concerns, ask their questions, and solve their curiosities about the material being discussed on a given day or during a given week within the online session. For those students considering an online degree program, be sure to become familiar with how most online courses permit a two-way exchange of material and questions throughout the course.

1. Email Communications with the Professor

Both on-campus and distance education students have the ability to email their professor at any time, with questions that concern the material, grading processes, or other concerns. This is perhaps the most common method of contact for both online and traditional students, since it’s an always-on way to more concretely understand the concepts being taught and the grading policies being enforced. Most professors will list their email address on the syllabus that is distributed within the online course, while others can be reached by using “in-platform” email messaging. Simply put, in-platform messaging requires students to click on a link within their online course portal to send an email message. Those messages may be exchanged either within the online learning software or, after the first message is sent, via traditional email.

2. Office Hours

Online students might not associate office hours with distance education, but this is actually a pretty common occurrence. Generally, office hours take shape in two distinct ways for students who are earning their degree online. The first of these is known as “online office hours.” Students have live access to their professor for an hour or two, and they can use an online chat service to ask their questions and have them answered immediately. This simulates the general nature of traditional office hours.

Students who live close to the college’s campus may also find that their professor holds on-campus office hours within driving distance. Those who prefer to have their questions answered in person will particularly enjoy this option. Though it’s not available to all students and doesn’t take place at all universities where online degrees are offered, it’s still an option worth investigating.

3. Discussion Board Posts

Almost all online classes require regular use of a discussion board to simulate class participation and topic discussion. Most courses also post a “Q&A” discussion board, or one called the “Cyber Cafe.” Using these unique discussion boards, students can post pressing, non-graded topics that their professors can then respond to with content clarification. Responses may not be as fast as email or in-person office hours, but they will still be quickly posted. As an added bonus, other students can see these questions and answers. That makes it easier for others to ensure that they’re working and understanding the content properly as the course proceeds.

Great Options Exist for Online Students with Pressing Questions

Online programs might seem a bit less personal, but there really is no shortage of ways to get in touch with a professor during a given session. Students who feel that they will benefit from asking questions in online college courses can email, go to online or in-person office hours, even post a discussion topic, which will ensure their concerns are addressed quickly and consistently.

Related: Do Online Colleges Have Career Counselors?