What Is Online Education? How Does It Work? – Guide

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Many terms are used synonymously when people refer to online education. Distance learning, e-learning, remote learning, and more are all used to refer to non-traditional education. All these terms, and more importantly, these options for learning, all occur away from a brick-and mortar location.

What is Online Education?

There are many versions of online education. Therefore, there is not one simplistic definition that encompasses all that online education can offer to students. To begin with, some online learning programs offer a blended option. Hybrid learning will include programs that have a mix of classes that are attended in-person and some classes and classwork is completed online. Though these systems sometimes require face-to-face interactions and instruction, the frequency of physical attendance in a brick-and-mortar facility can vary greatly. Hybrid education is considered an option within the iterations of online education.

For hybrid programs and fully remote or online courses, there are a few different methods used to instruct students. These varying techniques to provide instruction can differ from school to school, courses within one school, or during one course.

Let’s explore some of the terms and e-learning options offered.

  • Synchronistic courses expect that all students attending the class log on at scheduled times. During class time, the instructor will present information to the class. Students will participate by answering questions and having discussions with each other or work in groups.
  • Asynchronistic courses are more flexible. Students can log on and view a pre-recorded presentation by the instructor. There are timelines by which classes must be viewed and coursework completed. Sometimes, students will work online, at times the group decides, with other students to work collaboratively.
  • Self-paced programs provide another option for students. Classwork is presented asynchronously, but the timeline for completion is more open. Sometimes self-paced does not follow the school’s calendar.
  •  Cohort programs can still be offered as online or distance learning. Students are grouped together as a cohort. They will follow the school’s curriculum in a sequential manner. Often cohorts are assembled for programs that involve gaining experience by working or practicing in their discipline.

How Does Online Education Work?

Online learning is similar to a traditional educational system. Schools have developed curriculum that needs to be followed. If the online learning is a degree program, then there are certain classes that must be successfully completed by the student. Other distance learning classes are selected to complement the expectations set for the degree.

Students, who attend online schools, are expected to attend class, whether it is viewing a taped presentation or attending a live online streaming class. Just as with brick-and-mortar educational districts, online students have homework, research papers, and projects assigned. The work that is expected to be completed outside of the class time is usually a mix of independent and group work.

Students receive feedback from their instructors. It can be through online meetings, notes shared by the instructor on assignments, or a blend. Additionally, many classes will expect students to take exams to assess their learning. Grades are earned based on meeting the expectations of the assignments.

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