Accelerated Classes

Accelerated Classes

There are a few routes you can take to fast-track your degree, but accelerated classes are one of the easiest and most direct ways to reduce the time it will take you to graduate.

Colleges Offering Accelerated Online Courses:

Course lengths for each university are listed in parenthesis.

All of the universities listed above offer online degree programs.

How many weeks are Accelerated Classes?

There are several forms of accelerated courses available, and these vary by school. In general, an accelerated class means that you will enroll in a course that covers the same set of curriculum in a faster time-frame than the traditional semester-long class.

These classes can be structured in several ways, including:

The most common term length being offered is the 8-week course that is completed in half the time of a traditional 16-week, semester-long course. You will likely see these listed in the course catalog of your school as part of a semester – for example, 8-week classes may be listed with both “Fall 1” and “Fall 2” course options.

Advantages of Accelerated Classes

The primary advantage of an accelerated course is that you can take a full-time course load while only having to juggle two classes at a time.

Other benefits to accelerated classes include:

  • Ability to go from part-time to full-time student
  • Completing more classes in a shorter period of time
  • Faster degree completion
  • Opportunities to take your classes online or during the summer

In general, accelerated courses are best suited for students that are highly-motivated and have the ability to learn independently.

Accelerated classes vs. Traditional classes

The biggest difference between an accelerated class and a regular class is the pace at which you will be learning the material. This pace also depends on the type of accelerated class you are taking. For example, a 12-week class won’t be as demanding as an 8-week class.

Other differences include:

  • Accelerated class assignments are more concentrated and highly-focused
  • Greater demand for a structured study regime
  • Less time between exams and learning new material

In my experience, the need to find a balance between everyday life and the demands of your coursework is one of the biggest differences between traditional and accelerated courses. The fast-paced learning environment will require you to spend more time studying and completing assignments, so don’t be surprised if it takes some time for you to find the balance between your education, career, and other daily obligations.

How do I get started?

So, you’ve decided that you want to take an accelerated class… but now what?

The first step to getting started is to enroll at a college offering accelerated classes. Most universities operate on a traditional, 16-week semester, but a number of schools now offer classes online at a faster pace.

The following colleges offer fast-track classes online:

Typically, an accelerated class operates in a similar way to traditional classes – just at a faster pace.

Whether you’re a student just out of high school or a working adult returning to college, chances are that you’ve already begun the countdown to graduation. With the availability of accelerated course options, you can get there faster, and many students find that these classes are an exciting, challenging way to fast-track their degree program.

How do you logon to accelerated online classes?

To logon to your online course, visit your university’s website and logon to your main student portal.

Once you are logged in, you will see an option to navigate to your online class portal. Select the course you want to enter from the list of your registered courses and you will see a screen similar to this one:

Login screen for Blackboard class

Most schools will have some sort of online “orientation” for you to understand the basics about your university accounts and how to logon to classes.  Be sure you don’t miss this if they do or you could find yourself struggling to understand what’s going on in your program.

The two most common online course portals are Blackboard and Moodle.

Here’s an example of the Blackboard portal used at universities like Johns Hopkins, Boston University, and Central Michigan University. 

Other universities, like Idaho State University and the University of California, Irvine, prefer Moodle, another popular learning management portal:

Do I have to login to class at a specific time?

In most cases, no.

Online classes can be synchronous or asynchronous.

Synchronous (at the same time) classes do, in fact, have a class time and you will need to log in at that specific time for live lectures and discussion.  Such classes are pretty similar to any other “normal” university class except that your classmates are onscreen instead of in a seat next to you.

These are increasingly rare.

Most online classes are asynchronous. All course videos, assignments, and tests are uploaded ahead of time and you can complete your assignments anytime, provided you meet your instructor’s deadline.

Where do I find my course materials?

When you logon to your course, there will be a direct link to your assigned readings, projects, and exams.

Screenshot for accelerated class materials and resources

You will also be able to view a copy of your course syllabus to help you stay on top of your weekly readings, lectures, and assignments.

How do you listen to class lectures?

Your professor will be the one who decides how to deliver lectures, but in most cases, you learn and absorb class material on your own as you complete the assigned readings and related assignments.

In some rare cases, you may be required to watch live lectures at a set time each week, but this is the exception, not the rule.

What kind of classroom participation is required in an online class?

Classroom participation.

Ahhhh, the easy A when you’re attending class on campus.

With online classes, classroom participation is measured by your level of engagement on the discussion boards.

Each instructor has their own way of measuring participation, but you can usually find out ahead of time how many times you have to post per week by looking at the course syllabus. Here’s an example of an undergraduate history course at Liberty University:

accelerated class syllabus sample

As you can see from the course syllabus, in addition to weekly readings and lecture presentations, you’re also responsible for replying to a discussion question with a minimum of 300 words, demonstrating course-related knowledge, and at least 1 source. Then, you have to reply to 2 other classmates with a minimum of 100 words.

To give you an idea of the look and feel of your course discussion board, here’s an example from the Blackboard online learning portal:

Blackboard discussion board screenshot

In my experience, posting to the discussion board takes a minimal amount of time each week, but it’s a great way to interact with your classmates from around the nation (and globe).

Do you need textbooks in an online class?

Probably.

From my experience, most instructors still want people with a physical book that contains the main vocabulary and concepts of whatever the class is.  However, many of these books can now be purchased as “ebooks” that can be viewed on a computer or tablet or can be rented instead of purchased.

Some instructors may forego a textbook in favor a “readings packet” which might be available on the class’s main Blackboard page as a pdf file or with links to articles, videos, etc.  It really depends on what kind of class you are taking and what the instructor’s preferences are.

Top 9 Most Common Assignment Types in an Online Classes

  1. Discussion boards. Many instructors want a daily or weekly check in on what material students are comprehending and what they may be struggling with.  Discussion boards have become popular ways to recreate the classroom discussions in a physical classroom.  Usually these are fairly informal, short assignments.
  2. Weekly or other frequent short tests.  Again, the goal here is to keep the students on track and monitored.
  3. Midterms. The usual midterms and finals kinds of tests that may be a large part of the grade or evaluation of the course.  In fact, there may simply be one test of competency that is taken and establishes whether you know the material or not and that might be it for the whole class.  Lots of tests and quizzes are formatted for the online software, so often True/False or Multiple Choice.  But some may be short answer, essay, timed or untimed.  Try to find out as much as you can before signing up for classes.
  4. Essays. Courses, especially those in the Liberal Arts, are still going to want to see if you can write.  These could be anything from 1-2 page quick takes to major theses running into the dozens or hundreds of pages (though probably not until your last year for this sort of thing).  Many online programs now use software to check for plagiarism (don’t do it) or offer access to services like Grammarly that help students with proofreading.  Also, many universities have access to free or reduced price software like Microsoft Office or Endnote that are designed to help students write term papers.
  5. Team Project. Many classes have one or many projects that must be completed either by individual students or in groups collaborating on something.  This is a pretty broad “catch-all” category that could include art projects, business models, writing software code or anything else.  One time I had to go to a floatation tank for a class.  You never know what kind of drugs your professors might actually be on.
  6. Portfolio. Some classes will have a student put together one portfolio that includes all the work in the class.  Such classes may not even have a graded component, simply a work that assignments completed and judged in some way.
  7. Labs. Some science classes will have lab work.  This is, obviously, less likely for an online class, but it’s not inconceivable.
  8. Abstracts/Bibliographies. Shorter versions of writing assignments.
  9. Case Studies. The class might make you go out and interview someone or do some sort of community service, you know deal with real human beings for some crazy reason.  Probably not, but, again, such things happen.

How do you turn in assignments?

Most likely through the Blackboard or Moodle software.  The instructor will tell you how to submit work through the software that administers the class.  It’s possible it might also go through email attachment.  I suppose you could be asked to mail it, but that would be an unusually 20th century way of doing things.

How are accelerated online classes graded?

Generally, the same way as regular classes, with either letter grades or total point accumulation systems.

Most instructors will post your grades in a Grade Center on the course software page as you go so you know what your accumulated grades are on any given day.

How do you take exams in an online class?

Most likely through the software again, probably something that is timed once you log in.  In some instances you may need to contact a testing center to arrange to take the exam.  It’s possible it could be emailed or some other method, but usually it will be through the same website you access your lectures, assignments, PowerPoints and the like.

How do you contact your professor?

Email is the most common way to reach out to your professor.

Some professors may also give a phone contact for their office or their department secretary.  It’s also possible the professor will offer some kind of chat room or instant messaging contact as well, serving as a kind of “virtual office hours.”  In most instances the instructors make a reasonable effort to get back to email within 24-48 hours.

How do you get extra help when you need it?

It depends on the program.  Some online programs provide many of the same services a traditional campus does like a writing center, tutoring, disability services, counseling, mentors and the like.  Blackboard has links to a number of resources in the “Tools” menu linked on the right hand side of the course page.  But some online programs don’t have much in the way of these sorts of resources.

It’s certainly something to check into if you feel like you will need these kinds of assistance.  Some students handle independence and self-motivation well and others find they need more resources.  Think hard about what you think is best for you.

What kind of computer, software, and internet speed are required for accelerated classes?

As an online student, you’ll be dependent on your computer and your internet connection.

Each university will set its minimum IT requirements, but let’s take a look at the University of Phoenix as an example.

Hardware requirements:

  • A processor of 2 GHz or faster
  • At least 4 GB RAM
  • A high speed internet connection (speed of 1.5 MB/s or more)
  • Monitor and video card with a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768
  • Speakers or headphones and microphone
  • A web camera

Software and application requirements:

Each university will set the minimum operating system and web browser requirements. Again, let’s take a look at the University of Phoenix to get a good idea of what’s needed.

hardware-requirements-for-online-classes

Notice how the university mentions in the fine print that it “only supports the browsers listed” in the table.

This is an important consideration when setting up your computer. If your browser crashes every time you open the course (or even worse, launch an exam!), the university will not provide any support until you upgrade your system.

How many hours per week will I spend in an accelerated class?

It likely will depend on what level the class is.  Generally first year, freshman level classes require a bit less work and upper level classes will demand more of you.

A general rule of thumb for university classes is you should expect to need two to three hours outside class for each hour in.  So if it’s a 3-hour-a-week lecture, you will probably need to spend 6-12 hours a week doing reading and homework.  That means 4 classes would be the equivalent of a full time job, at minimum.

Poor time management or unrealistic ideas about how much time you will need to devote to class are probably the most frequent cause of student failure.  Again, this might sound harsh, but it’s better to wait until you’re ready to “succeed” than to give you advice that sets you up to fail.  You may be better suited by starting as part time students until they know what kind of workload you can handle.  Sometimes student financial aid depends on you being a full time student, but financial aid is whole different article and we don’t have space to get into that here.

Conclusion

With a strong work-ethic and determination, you may have the opportunity to shorten the time it takes to earn your degree, save money, and get one step closer to your long-term goals by taking the leap of enrolling in accelerated courses.

Have you found a way to accelerate the path to your degree? What steps have you taken to finish faster?

Accelerated Degree logo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8505