The Facts and Figures About Online Education
- More than 6 million students are currently in online courses as part of their higher education program
- Almost half of all students enrolled in online courses are educated exclusively through distance education
- 85% of students think that online learning is the same or better than the traditional classroom experience
Resources for Online Education
In general, when taking an online degree program you might encounter resources like:
- Recorded lectures;
- Discussion forums
- Live Q&A sessions; and
The resources offered to you for learning online will depend on the institution where you take your online program. Some online learning programs may require you to order physical textbooks in advance by in the mail, but these are generally being phased out in favor of eBooks and online-only methods of delivery.
For those institutions that have made the transition to using 100% online resources, students can expect to study using a combination of cutting-edge technological resources with no need to travel to attend lectures, exams or in-person discussion sessions!
Taking an online learning program, you’ll be an officially registered student at your institution and have access to the same resources as an on-campus student, like your institution’s digital library, learning management system (like Blackboard), student union membership and more! An online degree is similar to taking a degree program on campus, but you have the freedom to direct your own study schedule.
Your school and your course instructor will determine the format for each individual course and will select delivery methods that are best suited to your course or program. What a Biology major needs to learn successfully online will differ from what an Art History major needs!
Online learning may be a completely new experience for you. If you’re coming from a more traditional learning background, read on to discover how to make the most of the resources you may encounter in your online learning journey!
These written materials are essential resources in almost every course you’ll take when learning online.
Using the reading list for each course, or on the advice of your course instructor, you’ll need to dedicate the amount of time you need to reading and understanding the topics in the literature. The main advantage of using this medium (particularly eBooks) is the fact that they are completely portable, allowing you to study on the go from your computer, phone or tablet.
When you’re researching a course or program, remember to check whether your textbooks are included in your tuition fees! You may have to pay extra for your textbooks, or they may be available as eBooks from your institution’s library.
- Recorded lectures
An essential way of absorbing a large amount of information in a relatively short amount of time, lectures are a staple of online and campus-based learning. With online learning, you can attend lectures from your bedroom!
If you can, make notes throughout your lectures; this will make it easier to review for exams, and any assignments you’ll need to complete throughout your course.
- Interactive sessions
The greatest challenge an online education provider faces is how to replicate the face-to-face interaction and in-person discussions that on-campus institutions can easily provide.
The solution? Online degree programs often use a combination of discussion forums and interactive question-and-answer sessions to give you the interaction with other students and instructors you need.
Before beginning an online discussion forum or interactive session, make sure you read the rules and requirements; some institutions may require you to create posts that have a minimum word count.
How Will Online education Be Delivered?
Online students often think that their learning resources will be delivered via email, or even by snail mail! Most online institutions are moving away from this unreliable method of delivery.
The course or module’s learning resources will be delivered via the institution’s online learning environment or platform. The learning platform will vary depending on the software used, but it will usually consist of a central online platform that students can access from their personal PC, mobile or tablet.
One of the major benefits of utilizing resources that are hosted entirely online is unending flexibility!
As an online student, you can choose to access your course information and complete your assignments at any time. This allows you to fit study time in around your work, family and other commitments. This also means that students who wish to continue working while studying do not have to put their careers on hold. Get the best of both worlds!
Support for Online Learning
An important aspect that determines the quality of a study experience is the level of support that students receive. Many students worry that online institutions will not be able to provide the support that they need. This concern is increasingly being recognized by online learning providers, and many are working hard to ensure that students’ needs are met in all areas.
The main concern that potential students have regarding support is the lack of face-to-face help that an online course provides; however, by using technology like video calling and the more traditional phone and email, virtual institutions are increasingly bridging the gap between online and on-campus student support.
Student Support Teams
A dedicated Student Support team often forms the core of online institutions’ student support functions. The sole responsibility of this team is to provide pastoral care and support. Online (and part-time) students can experience problems and issues that are unique to this mode of study, and online learning institutions’ Student Support teams will be experienced and sympathetic to the range of issues experienced by online learners.
Student Support teams are often trained in providing advice on issues from financial troubles to family commitments, and can range from minor technology troubleshooting to major life events like a bereavement.
This isn’t the only support you receive on an online course; your fellow students are also a great source of help and advice. Using online discussion forums provided by the institution, WhatsApp and even Facebook groups, students can create an online community that supports each classmate as they overcome obstacles together as a group.
In-House & Freelance Instructors
The role that personal and pastoral support plays in an online student’s success cannot be overstated. However, academic support also plays a vital role in creating a supportive learning environment.
Online institutions vary, but many utilize a combination of in-house and freelance course instructors to create and deliver their courses. These instructors will be qualified subject experts and will be able to give academic guidance and feedback at any point in the course.
Academic feedback can sometimes be tough to receive, particularly if you’ve put a great deal of effort into a piece, but this can often be the first step towards improvement and greater confidence. Your instructors will always provide constructive commentary, giving tips and advice for the future, and this can then lead to improved confidence in decision-making and broader subject-specific understanding.
Depending on the institution, your instructor should also be available for individual sessions, and you should also be able to contact your instructor directly. Individual sessions with your instructor will enable you to ask questions about topics covered within the course, and request further feedback on your progress and areas of development.
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