What Do Online Classes Look Like? A Beginner's Guide

illustration of what online classes look like

Over the past 20 years or so, online classes have shifted from what some may have considered a novelty to becoming a mainstream aspect of modern education. Nowadays, it’s hard not to see bits and pieces of an online class experience pop up in media—whether it’s amusing videos of participants navigating technical difficulties or memes lampooning common struggles students face in the classroom today.

But if you’re considering making a return to school to earn a degree, you probably have some questions about what that experience actually looks like—it can’t all be on-camera struggles with pets, after all. You’ve come to the right place. This article will give you an inside look at what online courses look like on the easy-to-navigate Blackboard Ultra platform used by Rasmussen University and answer some of the most common questions and curiosities you may have about an online student experience.

What does the online course platform look like at Rasmussen University?

Looking for a quick introduction to what your online courses may look like at Rasmussen University? This introductory video for students is a great starting point.

Now that you’ve taken a virtual tour of sorts, let’s address some of the most common questions students have about online courses and how they work.

How does an instructor take attendance for online classes? 

Online classes offer flexibility for students who might otherwise have difficulty getting to a physical space at specific times. With online classes, students typically log on a couple of times per week to view assignments, watch videos, listen to lectures, read class materials and message instructors with any questions. Students generally receive credit for completing assignments and participating in online class discussion forums.

Where can I find my course syllabus and assignments?

When you log into your courses at Rasmussen University, you will have easy access to all of your courses, due dates, announcements, messages, course lessons and course materials. This is called the Activity Stream, and it gives you a snapshot of all the latest news for each class. You can add a personal touch to your account profile by uploading your photo, which will help identify you to your classmates and the instructor. Clicking on the individual class link gives you full access to each the specific syllabus, course materials, class roster and calendar for that class. Usually, online classes are organized into weekly modules, with each week featuring assignments and activities focused on an objective.

What do online class assignments look like?

Online class assignments are much like traditional assignments in that you will be asked to process information and synthesize your thoughts about it. The main difference is that in an online class, you can do the work whenever you want during the week (keeping any deadlines in mind, of course). Online class assignments can take a variety of forms: handouts you can download, online journals that can be graded and materials your instructor asks that you listen to, read or watch. Once you’ve reviewed the materials, the instructor can ask you to respond to individually or in a group discussion forum. Some assignments can be started and saved as drafts, to complete at another time. Your instructor might also give timed assignments, which show a clock icon indicating how much time you have to complete the work. 

Why do instructors assign online class discussions?

Though online classrooms are a modern invention, the synthesis of information among a group remains an important part of learning. Class discussions allow students to share opinions, pose questions and process through material with others. Having the opportunity to see how others react to new information has been a key part of education since ancient times. Observing others wrestle with concepts is often a very enlightening experience that can provide additional insight and perspective you may not have considered. 

These discussions also provide an avenue for instructors to identify topics students may be struggling with, which helps them refine or supplement their approaches.

How does an instructor share important announcements and deadlines?

Instructors at Rasmussen University will communicate with students in a variety of ways. Blackboard Ultra allows instructors to post announcements that you’ll see in your Activity Stream as well as in your message inbox. You can also set up an email associated with your Blackboard Ultra account to receive notifications about any messages you’ve received from your instructor or classmates.

Can I use my mobile phone or other devices to access my online classes?

At Rasmussen University, you’ll be able to log into courses with your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This helps students stay organized with due dates, group assignment messages and grade updates no matter where they’re checking in from. Online classes accessible by mobile phone are just another way to offer Rasmussen University students flexibility and convenience as they learn.

That said, it’s important to note that not all mobile devices will be compatible with all course materials. Rasmussen University does require students to have a fully-functional Windows computer or a Mac computer capable of running a Windows virtual machine.

How do I check on my grades? 

One benefit to online classes is that your grades are available at a glance as soon as your instructor posts them, along with any other comments or feedback they offer you on a project, assignment, group discussion or test. This helps you get a sense, in real time, of what you need to work on and what you’ve mastered, which can help cut down on any end-of-term surprises and panic—you’ll have a clear picture of where your grade stands at any given time during a course. 

What happens if I have technical issues?

While we hope everyone can advance through their online coursework without a hitch, it’s unrealistic for that to always be the case. Technical issues may pop up from time to time—and that’s okay. Whether you’re having issues logging in, browser trouble or difficulties getting an assignment submitted, know that Rasmussen University has you covered. The Personal Support Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help students navigate any technical bumps in the road they may encounter.

Move forward with confidence

Now that you know more about what an online course would look like and how they work, you should be feeling more confident about taking the next step. While it’s certainly a big move to pursue higher education, you’ll have plenty of support along the way. Check out our article “9 Surprising Student Resources You Didn’t Know Rasmussen University Offered” to learn more about the tools and services you’ll have at your fingertips.

About the author

Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie is a freelance copywriter at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles, on behalf of Rasmussen University, to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.


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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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