Online Learning?

What is Online Learning?

Before we can discuss successful strategies for students participating in online education, we need to understand what online learning is, and how to use this new medium. Online learning has various definitions, but an essential component for all is the use of computing and telecommunication technologies to deliver and receive course materials.

Online education utilizes the Internet or videoconferencing to create learning communities. Course materials are provided on a Web site and are occasionally found on CD-ROM; email, bulletin boards, forums, and chat rooms are used to interact with other students and teachers.

Online learning can enhance traditional forms of education. It may take place in the classroom or workplace, it may be performed at home, at online access centers, or at a public library. Online learning provides hands-on experience using information technologies and makes it easier for students to access learning and customized lessons.

Online learning may refer to a range of approaches, from making resources available electronically to the creation of rich, interactive, online experiences involving synchronous and asynchronous conferencing. The former emphasizes the content, the latter focuses on the relationships that underpin teaching and learning.

An emerging body of literature and research suggests that quality online learning is associated with:

  • Interactive and collaborative relationships between teachers and students
  • A student centered and constructivist approach
  • Providing student support

The use of integrated technology environments provided by courseware such as WebCT or appropriate videoconferencing facilities

Online teaching and learning is increasingly portrayed as a new paradigm with many believing that, unless online courses involve rich, instructional and social interaction, they are not part of this prototype. To quote a publication widely reported in online instructional design forums: "Without the support and participation of a learning community, there is no online course."*

How Does Online Learning Work?

Course materials may include Web resources, multimedia software, videotaped lectures and seminars, and audiotaped lectures. Class discussions with classmates and one-on-one interactions with faculty occur online via e-mail and chat rooms as well as through teleconferences.

These interactive online courses are taught by the same world-renowned faculty who teach on-campus and receive the same college credit as the comparable on-campus courses. Whether you aim to update your skills, build your résumé, or explore a new career direction, this cutting-edge technology can help you achieve your goals.

Online Learning Benefits:

  • Update your skills with virtually no interruption to your career or personal commitments
  • Take advantage of the flexible format and tailor a program to your individual needs and schedule
  • Put your new knowledge to work at your company while you learn
  • Study where you're most comfortable and when you're most productive
  • Interactive technology offers threaded discussions and real-time chat to enhance learning
  • Extensive technical support and academic advising foster your success
  • Your certificate, diploma or degree has the same value as if you had completed the program on campus

Become part of an electronic community of learners through MyExcelsior which houses discussion boards, chat rooms, Study Buddy Finder, Book Exchange, and a Student Union.

Tips for Online Learners

Most of the courses you will find here are based on the idea that people learn best in a community. The instructor plays an important, but different role from the classroom environment. You'll notice changes in the way your group operates, but the usual practices of courtesy are very important in online learning environments. Here are some tips:

  • Participate. It's not enough just to show up; you must contribute your ideas and share your knowledge and information with others to help develop a sense of community.
  • Be persistent. We are all moving into a new environment and everyone is learning together. If you have a problem, don't wait; send an email or contact your instructor immediately.
  • Share tips, help, and ask questions. Most of us are doing this for the first time, so there are no silly questions. If you have a solution, share it with others.
  • Think before you click the send button. Did you really mean what you said? Will others understand your comments? Will someone be offended? You cannot predict reactions to your comments, but you can review what you have written before you send.
  • Try to convey your emotions. We can't see your smile or your sarcasm, but you can convey your meanings with a couple of well chosen words.
  • Remember the person at the other end. Ask for feedback if you are not sure how you are doing. If you disagree with someone, use your skills to communicate your feelings clearly, but with sensitivity.
  • Derogatory or inappropriate comments. Inappropriate comments which relate to race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation are not acceptable and are subject to the same disciplinary action as in a regular classroom. If you have concerns about comments made, then contact your tutor immediately.
  • Plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property issues are the same as in the standard classroom. You may not use others' work without their permission.