Choose an Online Class
Online Degrees and Certificates
Online learning at Elgin Community College allows you to work towards your educational goals while maintaining your busy lifestyle and commitments. Experience a convenient learning environment with the support and resources you need to succeed!
What Are the Benefits of an Online Program?
With ECC’s online degree and certificate programs, you can learn online anytime. Classes are fully online and asynchronous, meaning no set class times or face-to-face sessions are required. Online programs are perfect for students balancing work, family commitments, or other outside responsibilities.
Online classes allow you to study at your own pace. You can work ahead or take more time on challenging topics.
Available Online Degrees
Associate of Arts (AA)
You can complete an Associate of Arts degree entirely online. This is one of the most popular associate degrees for students intending to transfer to a four-year university. The fully online, asynchronous degree is an excellent opportunity for you to further your education while meeting the demands of your busy lifestyle!
How Do I Enroll in an Online Program?
Enrolling in an online degree program is the same process as all other ECC programs. New students, or those who have not attended ECC in the past two years, should submit a free online application and indicate their interest in completing their program of study entirely online. Once you’ve indicated interest, our admissions team will contact you about your next steps.
Current students wishing to switch to an online degree or certificate should contact their academic advisor.
What Support and Resources Are Available for Online Learning?
Most student support services, including academic advising, tutoring, and wellness services, are available remotely, so there is no need to come to campus. Learn more about our support services.
Set yourself up for success from the start with these strategies for being successful in an online learning environment.
Chromebooks are available for checkout at the Library. If you need it for classes at ECC, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need Wi-Fi for your studies, learn more about affordable or free wi-fi options for students.
Is an Online Degree or Certificate Right for Me?
If you start an online program, you can always switch back to a traditional degree or choose to take a few classes face-to-face. You are not required to take all your classes online if your learning preferences change.
ECC offers online, hybrid, and in-person classes, so you can choose how you learn best. Find resources for determining if online classes are right for you.
If you’re unsure if an online program is right for you, you can take a few online classes.
Planning to Transfer
ECC is the ideal place to start a bachelor’s degree. Many four-year colleges and universities offer fully online bachelor’s degrees in various programs. Meet with an academic advisor to plan for your seamless transfer.
Tips for succeeding as an online student
Part of the appeal of online learning is the freedom and flexibility it can allow you as a student to carry on with other responsibilities you may have. But it would be a mistake to confuse this freedom and flexibility with a lack of structure or planning. Successful online students become experts at defining their priorities and building (and keeping) a schedule that allows them to focus on the most important things.
The schedule that works best for you will always be the one you will follow, so you should decide how detailed you want to be based on what you know about yourself already. For example, some people are likelier to stick to a schedule that groups general tasks by half an hour. Others find that being ultra-specific about what they will do in each moment of their day helps them stay on track and feel in control. You may find you're somewhere in the middle, and that's fine.
We recommend you start with something like this:
- Decide on a day each week to build your schedule for that week. Sunday evening works well for most people, but you decide what works best. Then put this day/time on your phone or your computer as a recurring weekly alert so you are reminded to sit down and take 20 minutes to plan out the next seven days.
- In your weekly planner or on your calendar, start by plugging in your non-negotiables"—these are standing or fixed events like your face-to-face class schedule, any synchronous online class requirements, work schedule, time to eat, sleep, bathe, etc.
- Then, based on the order of your priorities, you can start adding in your other responsibilities or events. You should look through each class syllabus at this point to see what's coming up. Is there a big exam on Friday? Schedule an hour of study each night leading up to that. Is there a research paper due in two weeks? Set aside time to meet some small goals leading up to that (google the "chunking method" for more details). We also recommend logging in to each of your online classes at least three times each week, so build a minimum of 15-minute chunks to do this for each class, spread across the week. In general, expect to spend 2-3 hours each week for each credit hour of your class reading, working on assignments, or studying. So for a standard 3-credit-hour class, you probably need to schedule around 9 hours each week devoted to some aspect of that class.
Play around with different ways to build your schedule and methods of keeping it. There is no wrong way to do this. The only mistake you can make is to think you can keep all of your online class requirements and everything in your life straight without some structure.
- Does having a schedule on your phone work best?
- Are you more likely to use the calendar feature on your computer?
- Do you prefer to write in a paper planner? (FYI: Free paper planners are available in the office of student life).
- Is one of the thousands of scheduling apps right for you?
Spending a little time upfront getting and staying organized in your online classes will save you time throughout the semester and help keep your stress levels low. Getting organized for online classes comes in two main categories: organizing your workspace and class content. Let's talk about each in turn: Your Workspace When setting up your space to conduct your online classwork, it helps to have a space set up in your house with everything you need there. Some people like to go to the library, a coffee shop, or another place away from home. This is fine, but keep a travel bag stocked with everything you need.
Here's a good checklist for creating your workspace:
- Ensure reliable wifi for accessing, downloading, and uploading class documents.
- Check your computer periodically to ensure it is fully updated to meet system requirements and that pop-up blockers are disabled.
- Find a spot with good lighting and not much noise or distractions. Avoid soft surfaces (like your bed or a comfy couch), and use headphones with white noise, rain sounds, or classical music to avoid distractions.
- Put phones on "Airplane Mode" or in a bag to limit distractions. Or consider using a "distraction blockers" app like Quiet Hours, Cold Turkey, or one called Self Control, all found in the AppStore. Ensure you have all the notepads, pens, highlighters, folders, and anything else you need for a class nearby.
- Only have the materials you need for the task at hand. A cluttered desk or tabletop makes for a cluttered mind. - If at home, let the family know you have important work to do for a specific amount of time, and ask them to respect your time. ECC has many excellent study spaces throughout campus, and we love seeing students take full advantage of them.
Your Class Content
A common challenge for students in online classes is staying on top of various class requirements and deadlines. Without a faculty member to remind students of upcoming due dates in person, the disorganized student easily gets lost and overwhelmed. But this will not be you! Here's the bare minimum you need to do to keep everything in order:
- Make a folder and notebook for each class you are in.
- Print the syllabus for each class and other essential documents, and include them in this folder.
- Review the entire syllabus in detail on day one of the class. Then, review the calendar/deadline portion of the syllabus at least once per week (see advice on schedule on the previous pages) and determine what you need to complete each week for each class.
Online classes can feel lonely. Without coming to a physical classroom on a regular schedule, it's easy to feel like you are being left to teach and learn the material independently. However, most online classes are designed around a central component of collaboration and conversation; it's just that this may not look how we are accustomed to it looking in the "real world." Tapping into the learning community in an online class takes a little effort. Still, it's an essential skill to get the most out of your class and be successful. Here are some tips for staying engaged and leveraging your online community.
Think of the discussion board of an online class as the heart of the classroom. It's where you get to pose questions to your instructor and other students, comment on class readings or assignments, and get to know your classmates. Suppose you're not always comfortable speaking in a regular class. In that case, the discussion board space in an online class gives you time to think about how you want to word something and contribute to the class without fear. What an amazing opportunity this becomes! To make the most of your discussion board:
- Introduce yourself and engage with your instructor and other students. If you're naturally a little shy, this is a great, low-stakes way to practice getting to know new people.
- Check the boards and post/regularly respond—try to review the discussion boards at least three times each week, posting or responding to other students' posts.
- Interesting and helpful conversations are never generic, so on the boards, you should avoid general statements like "I like that" or "I disagree." Instead, always explain why you think what you think or feel how you feel. For example, rather than just posting "I agree" in response to another student's post that you like, you might write, "I agree with your interpretation of the reading assignment. I also thought that Santiago's tattered boat in "The Old Man and the Sea" was a metaphor for his frailty because…".
Build your Network
Invite other students to create study groups. These don't have to be online for students who live locally. Meeting up at the ECC library or other study spots can be a great way to create a real community from an online class. But online study groups can accomplish this as well. These online study groups and any online, synchronous component of the class can also benefit people who find speaking up in a large classroom or around new people challenging. Online classes can empower you to contribute in new and powerful ways from the comfort and security of your home or personal space! Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet are great tools to build connections with the real people in your online classes.
Netiquette is the word for relevant email and online etiquette (hence, "net"-etiquette, get it?). Netiquette involves a range of online behaviors you should know about and practice, some of which may seem obvious and intuitive and others that may not. Unless you are told otherwise, always address your instructor using their proper title: "Prof. Smith" or "Dr. Doe." A proper email should include a subject line, greeting, body, sign-off, and signature.
Tips on how to boost your professionalism in an online class
- Always respect your instructor and other students, even (perhaps especially), when you disagree. Failure to do so may violate ECC's Student Code of Conduct.
- Practice is both thorough and concise. This is a skill that you can improve over time with practice. But you have to practice.
- Please don't use all capital letters because IT MAY BE INTERPRETED AS YELLING and is disrespectful.
Avoid texting abbreviations like LOL, OMG, SMH, or the letter "u" instead of "you." This is a professional college classroom, and you should approach all content as such.
- Sarcasm can be difficult to pick up on through text, so avoid it altogether so no one misunderstands you.
- Think before you post. What you write can always be found, so avoid making a post or sending an email if you are agitated or emotional. When using email, all of the above tips certainly apply, but here are some other considerations:
- Write a brief but helpful subject line. Put yourself in the recipient's place and ask yourself, "What would summarize the purpose of this email?"
- Email is not a text message; it's professional communication. So be brief and to the point, but always include a salutation such as "Hello Prof…" and a sign-off such as "Thank you for your time."
- Always include your name and, we recommend, the whole class code you are in with that instructor (i.e., CMS 101-770).
- Remember, your teacher may teach five different CMS 101 classes with 25 students each. The easier it is for them to identify you, the better they can address your concern.
- If using attachments, ensure they are in a standard format and can be opened. Usually, this is Word or PDF, but be mindful of your Google Docs access setting.
- Avoid "Reply All" to mass emails you receive unless necessary. Pro tip: It's rarely necessary.
The mindset you bring to your online classes will determine your experience, how much you learn, and ultimately what grade you earn. Commit to cultivating these key characteristics, and you are guaranteed success in college and beyond.
Success in college (and, honestly, success in life) is based mainly on consistently following the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves. Committing to getting good grades or earning your degree for your parents, teachers, siblings, or children is great. But the extent to which we commit to ourselves, and follow through on those commitments, determines our life's achievements.
So we suggest taking some time before the start semester to write down your goals, large and small, and your reasons for enrolling in each class (there are a lot of great apps out there to help you goal set, like this one). Connect the class to a bigger goal you may have (complete a degree? learn a skill for work? get a better job?) and then commit to yourself to put in the necessary work to achieve your goal. Hold yourself accountable for what you say is essential to you, understanding that if you do not change or build upon the things you do daily, you cannot expect your life to improve in the ways you would like it to improve.
Online classes will ask more of you in several ways. To be successful, you must accept and embrace this as fact. Lose any expectation that you will be able to sit back passively. At the same time, information is neatly presented, as you might find in some on-campus lecture classes. Online classes will make you a better problem solver, learner, and critical thinker, but only if you approach your classes to understand that you are responsible for your experience. Critical thinking involves evaluating evidence, connecting ideas, concepts, and the real world, and arriving at conclusions that produce intended results. Critical thinking will make you successful in classes, work, and life. So welcome any opportunity to stretch and flex your critical thinking skills in your online class experience.
No matter the format, subject, or requirement, working to find something interesting in everything you do—staying curious—is one of the best ways to stay focused and excited about your classes and ensure the desired outcomes. Don't be afraid to dive deep into a topic that interests you or develop an interest in something that seems dull on the surface. Cultivate curiosity in all you do for school, and watch as that curiosity "pulls" you through the difficult moments.