What Is Online Education?

By Sadie DeWitt

Photo courtesy of Linh.H.Do via Flickr

If you’ve never taken a course on the internet before and are unfamiliar with the concept, you may be asking yourself, “What is online education?” and wondering exactly what the process entails. Online education, also known as e-learning, is different from traditional education because students don’t have to go to an actual classroom or be face-to-face with an instructor.

Just like in traditional schools, online courses are conducted according to a schedule, but there are typically no live classes to attend. You’re usually free to do coursework, attend lectures, and join discussions at times that are the most convenient for you, but homework and exams have deadlines. Some online learning programs do require students to attend courses at set times, however, using a more sophisticated program.

Students attend lectures and classes in “virtual” classrooms on the internet. Professors who teach online courses commonly use learning management systems to post assignments and syllabi. Communication mediums used in online courses include email, chat rooms, text messages, and discussion boards. Learning materials vary from one program to the next, but often include textbooks, video, audio, interactive lessons, Power Point presentations, and online resources. As part of an online course, students typically:

  • Receive feedback from the instructor
  • Discuss assignments with students and the instructor
  • Write papers
  • Post comments on online discussion forums
  • Take quizzes
  • Complete projects both individually and as a group
  • Read assignments

When researching what is online education and education costs, you’ll probably determine that most online degree programs are similar in nature. That being said, you’ll also find that classes are made unique by the instructors’ experience, objectives, and the technologies. You may also discover that some online classes require more knowledge of computers/internet than others, so that’s something to consider when you’re looking for a program if you’re less-than-tech-savvy.

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