Indiana University Northwest
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IU Northwest Online Education

What is Online Learning?

What's Online Learning Anyway?

For someone who has never taken an online class, the very idea that someone could learn something as well as they would in a traditional college classroom THROUGH a computer seems almost, well, ridiculous.

But, is it?

Almost every institution of higher education now offers online courses. Universities are doing this because students demand it. It took some time for academics, government servants, and business leaders to accept that the quality of an online learning experience is at least as good–if not better than–a traditional learning experience. The acceptance is now established, and the number of people who take online courses is growing by the day.

Part of the movement is certainly due to the explosion of technology that makes learning online dynamic, interesting, engaging and very real.  Most of us cannot imagine our lives without our cell phones, smart phones, iPads, tablets, and laptops.  Information is at our fingertips at every moment of every day, so why shouldn’t learning?

As you consider what online learning is typically like, take a moment to watch this YouTube video, The Social Media Revolution 2012 at http://youtube/0eUeL3n7fDs. This video is a real eye-opener!

Online education brings technology and social media together into a learning environment that allows for the flexibility that our very busy lives demand of us. Granted, it is not for everyone. Look back at the previous page “Is it right for me?” to help you see if online learning is right for you.

Online learning takes so many forms. What it looks like, feels like, and operates like will depend on

  • the institution
  • learning management system (the technology that provides the virtual classroom, its materials, etc.),
  • training of its instructors, and
  • tools available to students and faculty

Generally speaking, students will log on to the “learning management system”  –IUN uses OnCourse–to access their online course. The instructor creates the course in advance, and the students view the syllabus, course schedule, and policies online. Most of these documents can be downloaded and viewed online.   

Students will have weekly assignments that they will turn in electronically through OnCourse; faculty members will grade them and grades will appear in an electronic grade book. Students always know how they are doing in the course as once grades are added, students can see them and their overall progress.

Students will be required to participate in online discussions (also called forums) to interact with other students in the class as well as their instructor. You do make friends and get to know your other classmates and instructor.

If the instructor is trained, he or she will take an active role in your learning, participate actively in the course, and will be there to answer your questions and help when you need it.

Overall, it’s just a different way of learning. Students who learn online must be dedicated and self-motivated to get the most out of this very real learning experience.

Want more information about online learning, in general?

10 Advantages to Taking Online Classes

21 Things for Students: Learning Online