The popularity of online learning has been steadily rising in recent years and more people are asking themselves, how does online learning work? Taking online courses for everything from foreign languages to web design to knitting to acquiring higher education degrees has practically become the norm for everyone aged 8 to 88. With the outbreak of a health pandemic in 2020, the landscape of online education has forever been altered. In February 2021, over 220 million students worldwide are still affected by traditional classroom schooling’s total or partial closure.
Remote learning has become a necessity, and with that, acquiring knowledge over the internet has seen significant improvements.
But how does online learning work, exactly?
The Concept of Online Learning
Depending on the type of online education you’re looking for and the institution offering it, there are several options you can take:
- Lessons that are pre-recorded and that you can watch online at your own pace
- Attending live classes via a group call, or
- A combination of the two
Typically, the online class offers flexibility that a traditional learning experience doesn’t. You can study and take notes from the comfort of your home, watch lectures whenever you have the time to focus on them, and move as slow or as fast as you’d like (with the exception that some programs require you to meet specific deadlines).
With a global health crisis still very much in full swing, virtual learning has the added benefit of not being in physical proximity to other people while still advancing your education.
Resources and Interaction in Online Learning
When obtaining an online degree, you don’t rely only on textbooks and lecture notes. You have a wide array of resources available to you, such as:
- Presentation slides
- Recorded lectures in audio or video format
- Discussion forums
- Live Q&A sessions with your teachers
- Interviews, and more
What type of resources you will have access to depends on the institution where you’ve signed up for your online learning program. Some offer all of these and some only a handful of options. Others might even require you to order printed textbooks, though this is not the standard anymore.
Socializing with other students can be achieved online or in person, depending on the type of program. Some institutions require their students to be on campus even if they are attending online lessons. You can choose to talk to your fellow students on discussion boards, via phone, email or video calls (which are particularly useful when doing group projects), or even social media.
Typically, an online learner should have most, if not all, opportunities and resources as a traditional student. You will be an officially enrolled student and likely have access to the digital library, student union, and a learning management system (such as Blackboard).
Knowledge Assessments in Online Learning
Like with any course, there are times when the teachers have to assess the students’ knowledge, so how does that work in online learning? The exam or testing process looks slightly different from taking a traditional pen and paper or an oral exam in front of a stern professor.
Your instructor can evaluate what you’ve learned in the course in any of the following ways:
- Individual Assignment
Nowadays, most teachers in an online program rely on individual assignments. They provide their students with a topic, word count, and deadline. Students are asked to develop a structured argument on the subject, like an essay.
- Journal Activity
Journal entries are unique to online learning. They are often ungraded but represent a convenient way for the instructor to track how their students progress through the course content. Students must write an online journal entry at regular intervals (usually once a week), where they explain what they’ve learned and how they will use that knowledge in the future.
- Academic Discussion
An academic discussion is a form of debate. Like with an individual assignment, your professor will give you a topic you then must research. Each student has to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the topic. At a specific time, they will be engaged in a debate where they need to present their ideas and opinions to the class and defend them with facts and discussion skills. It sounds intimidating, but academic discussions are, in fact, quite exciting and offer an excellent opportunity for intellectual and academic growth.
Lastly, a virtual school also has its form of an exam. However, technically speaking, teachers don’t oversee the exam unless they use some exam software or web tools. This is the main reason why exams in virtual classes are of the open-book variety.
You might think this is a chance to ‘cheat’ and get better grades than you would in a traditional setting. But keep in mind that most online schools have developed intricate ways of checking for plagiarism or other similar tricks students might use to pass an exam without much effort on their part. Distance learning is by no means any easier to cheat through than traditional classes.
In this unpredictable world where people often cannot traditionally continue their education for many reasons, online learning is a welcome solution. It allows anyone to learn about almost any topic they desire in any corner of the globe. They can follow the classes at their own pace, meet other students, chat with them online, and get a degree just as they would if they were physically going to school.
A virtual school offers many different resource options that help students better understand the course material. They can learn from recorded or live lectures, journals, discussion boards, eBooks, and more.
There are also four major ways of assessing knowledge: journal activity, exams, academic discussions, or individual assignments. Different professors might even come up with their unique ways of challenging students and encouraging them to do their best in a virtual classroom.
If you wish to pursue an IT career and would like to know how to get an online IT certification, take a look at what MyComputerCareer has in store. For more information about how our online learning programs work, feel free to leave us a message. We’d love to help you become the next IT expert through well-rounded remote education!