Think About It: Studying Math Online

If you are considering embarking on a serious study of math online, resulting in a degree, this page is designed to do just what it says: help you to think about it for a minute. There are great advantages and also some disadvantages to online study. While our faculty and graduates are very proud of the program and their accomplishments, we know it’s not the answer for everyone.

Are you self-motivated? It takes more discipline to focus on your studies when you are doing it alone, particularly in your own home surrounded by the distractions and temptations of tv, radio, children, housework, etc. Can you set aside blocks of time? Persons familiar with the internet may have to make an adjustment of attitude; there’s no instant gratification here. Classes are on a semester schedule, and it takes just as long to complete the program online as onground.

Speaking of time, can you devote quality time to this? Yes, you may work at your assignments at 3:00 a.m. if you choose, but unless you’re nocturnal, you will likely be working at half efficiency then– particularly if you’re also working a full-time job.

Are you comfortable studying in a text-based learning environment? Can you express yourself well in writing? Do you work well independently? Do you persist through difficulties? Are you unable to get to a traditional classroom because of distance, work, or family schedule? Online study is convenient and flexible, and may work very well for you. It is NOT easier or faster than studying in a classroom– just different.

Do this, don’t do that: Rules to live by

  • Participate. Online courses have discussion boards, and the instructor may also be contacted “out of class” by email or phone. Without face-to-face interaction, others cannot read by your expression or body language that you are not getting the information. Participation in online discussion is crucial to keeping the class together with the course content– and often required for your grade.
  • Browse the course. Especially in your first online class, make sure early on that you can navigate it effectively. Use the help files. Learn how to communicate, and submit assignments. Visit the OTEL’s page on Blackboard, which contains a tutorial.
  • Share. Other students are likely struggling with the same problems you are.
  • Read the material again. Multiple readings of topics is important in a math class to let the material soak in. Speed reading is generally not a helpful skill here.
  • Don’t fall behind early on. Mathematics courses are famous for being homework-intensive. Although it can be a chore to keep up, it’s much more difficult to catch up.
  • Reread what you wrote before you hit send or submit. Did you miss something? Say something you’ll regret? How will the other person take your tone?
  • Don’t plagiarize, cheat, or lie to your instructor. Ethical behavior is essential in a learning community, and expected of you. The program and the university deal with infractions accordingly.