Fundamentals of Online Learning

Not everyone likes traditional learning.
a man sitting at a table

Not everyone likes traditional learning. Many students don’t like driving to class, trying to find parking, and sitting in a room for X amount of hours. In fact, most students prefer self-learning with a side of guidance, and that’s where online learning enters the picture.

One of the best things about online learning is that there are many options available, from certificate programs to degrees. You can now earn a master’s degree online, as well as study mechanical engineering design and earn your mechanical engineering degree. However, it’s important to research programs you’re interested in as some require students to take a couple of classes on campus, not to mention certain programs focus on different areas.

Online learning makes it possible for anyone to earn their degree on their own terms. Here are some of the fundamentals of online learning if you’re interested in this rewarding path.

Online Learning vs. Traditional Classroom

As points out, there are many differences between online and traditional education, from learning styles to classroom settings to pacing. Many students prefer an online setting because it allows them to work at their own pace and in their environment of choice.

Online learning also opens the door to more freedom and flexibility as students don’t have to drive to campus for lectures that are only offered at a certain time. Many online programs are offered during any time of the year while traditional classes are only offered during certain times since a classroom and professor have to be available and present.

In many online courses, lectures are pre-recorded and available 24/7, although some programs require students to meet online during a specific time period. Whereas traditional learning requires students to show up in-person and sometimes attend office hours, online learning is heavily based on email conversations and message boards.

As a result of online courses offering more flexibility, it opens the age range of students. Working adults can easily go back to school and earn a degree while working full-time because they can do their studies before or after work. The traditional path typically consists of younger adults who earn a degree before entering the working world or people who have to leave their jobs to open up the time to earn a degree. Now, you can have the best of both worlds, no matter your age.

Best Practices of Online Learning

 All digital courses are different and professors should provide a syllabus and resources so you know what’s expected of you and best practices to succeed. With that said, a good internet connection is valuable in all online courses, as is a computer or tablet that allows you to access the online classroom and all relevant documents and programs.

Online discussions are also common in online courses, which require students to write responses to questions and leave comments on other student’s work. This can feel less personal for many students which is why students have to be willing to speak up in discussions and reach out to professors if they have questions or concerns.

Since online courses tend to be less personal because everyone is in a different place, there tends to be heavy reading material and self-learning. If you don’t read the lessons, textbooks, and other documents provided, then you’ll likely fall behind. Online learning requires students to be self-disciplined because it’s a setting where students are teaching themselves more than traditional classrooms.

We encourage you to take an online learning self-assessment to see if online courses are a good fit. A self-assessment can tell you how prepared you are for an online class as well as the technical skills you’ll need to succeed.

Every online program and university is different. We hope this online learning guide can help you succeed in your virtual endeavors.