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Examine the Syllabi of Online Courses Before Starting

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When trying to determine if a school or a single course is right for you, one approach is to examine the syllabi of the courses. This will tell prospective students just about anything they will need to know about the course in terms of the workload and expectations.

Some online schools such as American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU) offer archived syllabi for all of their courses, allowing anyone to download them directly from the website. For example, while examining the description of the undergraduate course on Medieval Military History, there is a link to download an archived syllabus. AMU gives the warning that it is outdated and subject to change, but still, it provides a high-level overview of what a student can expect.

If a school does not offer a syllabus example, you can always contact the school and ask for one. I have yet to encounter a student who was denied such a request.

When looking at any syllabus, consider the following:

  1. Can you handle the reading? If the course requires you to read 300 pages a week, is that something that will even fit in your schedule?
  2. Can you handle the writing? Most online courses require weekly message board posts with one or two papers throughout the course. Others are more strenuous, requiring a paper for each week.
  3. Does the material interest you? A syllabus will break down the learning objectives from week to week. As such, when you see that week 2 of Medieval Military History will probably cover Byzantine and Germanic warfare, you need to consider if that is something that you will find interesting.

Regardless, peeking at the content of what you may jump into can only give you an edge before starting at a new school or course.

By Scott Manning
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor

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