5 Classes You Should Take Online...and 5 You Shouldn't

Jan 29, 2020

Learning to manage your class schedule is important in college, but it's not easy. Taking some of your classes online can save time, money and sanity, but it's not always best. You might miss some things, like social interaction or hands-on activities, but sometimes online really is the better option. So which classes should you take online and which should you take in person?

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Classes You Should Take Online

The following are a list of classes that typically don't require much guidance from a professor, other than providing you with the resources and materials necessary to learn the subject matter. For that reason, if you're interested in a more flexible schedule, these courses may be worth taking online:

Health Education

Most colleges require that you take a basic sex education, physical wellness, or alcohol education class during your first few years. These classes, while informative, don't necessarily help with your major or lead towards a career path. If you can take a required health education class online, do it. It will likely be little effort and may give you more time to study for other classes. Health 101: Principles of Health is online course that you can take on your own time - just learn from home and transfer credits to your school.

Art/Music Appreciation

In order to complete any degree, you usually need to take a course in the arts. If you have no desire to take a hands-on art or music class, most colleges offer courses such as art/music history or appreciation online. These courses provide you with information about different art/music movements and their evolution over time. The curricula typically require reading, some researching, and the ability to identify different works of art or instrumental sounds. The fastest way to satisfy this requirement is with Art 101: Art of the Western World. Learn on your phone and on your own schedule!

Natural Sciences

A a lot of science is in fact memorization and direct application which can also be done in an online environment. Only about a third of all science courses require an actual laboratory in the traditional sense. Other courses can be done with video and interactive technology or through hybrid instruction, where students attend campus for the lab component on certain days in the semester, while completing the rest of the course work online. As science also includes technology and computer science courses, the opportunities for online course work becomes exponentially greater.


If you've chosen to go into the medical field, you probably already know there's a specific method for doing everything, and you need to get it exactly right. As part of your education to become a nurse, physical therapist, dentist, or physician, you will inevitably take a large number of courses, including so-called clinicals, which are 'hands-on' and many lecture based courses and seminars.

General Education Courses

Not every single general education course can be taken easily online, but sometimes it's for the best. Check to see if pass/fail is an option, then work towards passing the class online, just to get it out of the way. If it's not something you'll use in the future for classes in your major or a topic you find particularly interesting, spending time on it that could be spent on other classes probably isn't wise.'s general education courses lead to quick credit you can transfer to your school. With, you can earn credit in under two weeks and knock out your gen eds in just a few months.

Classes That Should Not Be Taken Online

Though you might be interested in knocking out some of the more difficult courses offered online, it's smarter to take them in person. They often require extra support and guidance from a professor. If possible, try to avoid taking the following classes online:

Social Science

Most social science courses, such as sociology, humanities, anthropology, and others, explore the inner workings of societies past and present. Requiring mostly reading, short essays, discussions, and research methodologies. The subject matter alone requires careful guidance and facilitation from the professor as the course material includes complex topics such as power structures, ideas related to inequality, ethics, evil, social contract, various political theories and ideologies, concepts of race and ethnicity, gender and religion, animal rights, and human dominion among many others. Students are required to read often difficult and antique scholarly texts and they are expected to learn the research protocols in their respective discipline. The social sciences rely heavily on statistics in their quantitative research and students are well served if they acquire fluency in Excel and other computer software. Detailed attention from professors and graduate assistance is key to student learning success in the social sciences.


History courses emphasize class discussion and collaborative analysis. Additionally, they expect significant reading and writing, even in introductory courses such as the western civilization/world civilization, and U.S. history survey courses. Students are expected to access scholarly resources, work with primary source documents and engage in historiography. The days of memorization and recitation are long gone. Thus, while there are several popular online History courses available, they are only recommended for the most academically prepared and diligent students due to their extensive work load. History 101: Western Civilization I, History 102: Western Civilization II, History 103: US History I, and History 104: US History II.


In high school, English classes might have been all about reading and answering questions on a quiz. In college, however, English is mostly discussion. Without serious effort or video chats, online discussion classes are hard to manage. Also, English courses tend to teach you a lot about essay writing, which you will use for most of your classes as you go through college.


To truly learn a language, you have to speak it, hear it, and make mistakes only to be corrected. While this is possible when using an online program, it is far more difficult. Conversing with other students and your teachers in the language you are learning is one of the best ways to progress in your studies. Just clicking on right answers or listening to people speak without responding simply won't get you there as fast.

Courses for Your Major

If you know you need a class for your major, do not take it online. As you move up from class to class over the years, you often have to look back and learn from what you've already done. If you haven't been in classes to discuss and figure out your problem areas, future classes will just keep getting harder and harder. If you're not sure a class is necessary for your major, ask yourself if it covers a concept or skill you'll use in your college or working-world career. If the answer is yes, consider taking it in person.

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