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Time Considerations for That First Course, Start Smart!

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By Craig Gilman
Faculty Member, American Military University

Prospective students considering taking that first college course often wonder how much time will be required to ensure they get off to a successful start. American Military University offers courses in a shortened, eight week format and the more traditional sixteen week format.  The following guidelines are recommended.  As no two students are exactly the same, there will be some variation in the time required to be successful, but for those with no experience, they provide a framework for consideration.

During an average week, an undergraduate student should expect:

  • 9 – 10 hours completing coursework for a 16-week course
  • 15 – 18 hours completing coursework for an 8-week course

A graduate student should expect:

  • 10 – 15 hours completing coursework for a 16-week course
  • 18 – 22 hours completing coursework for an 8-week course

A student’s academic experience will directly impact the time necessary for successful completion of a course. Beginning students or students new to the online environment will often need more time than a student with experience.

Compared to new students, experienced students possess time saving knowledge and an academic skill set that will influence the amount of time necessary to succeed in the classroom. For example, they no longer need to spend time learning how to navigate the classroom. They have an understanding of where to access important resources, such as the online library, and how to use them.  They improve their understanding of the paper writing process, how to do research in an academic database, format a paper, and properly edit and submit their work. They gain confidence and experience interacting with the instructor and other members of the learning community in a way that empowers them to gain and share knowledge in a more efficient manner.

Adult students, new to college, should consider registering for only one course during their first term. As they gain experience in the classroom, the amount of time they might need to spend per class may be reduced with experience. Students receiving forms of financial aid that require at least half-time or full-time status should understand what the minimum credit requirements are and not take more than those required during their first term. In following terms, signing up for more than the minimum credits required per term should be a decision based on success in the previous term.

Likewise, adult students, with career, family and other obligations should consider beginning with one class in their first term. Since online schools often start courses monthly, one last recommendation is for students who wish to take multiple courses simultaneously to alternate course start dates. For example, students who wish to take two courses at a time should begin one course in the first month and the second course in the following month.  By doing so, students will be taking two courses concurrently, but due to the different start dates, will only have to take one final assessment each month, thus alleviating the stress of finals.

How one starts the race does not always dictate how one will finish the race, but it certainly has an influence.  Start smart. Finish strong!

About the Author:

Craig Gilman is currently an online, adjunct who teaches COLL100 and for the School of Education for American Military University.  A veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps, he is a former, certified public school, secondary social studies teacher with an MS Education and MA International Relations from Old Dominion University.

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