Navigate the World of Distance Learning

Dissipating Public Myths about Online Education
Online education is a relatively newer phenomenon that's why there are numerous myths about this kind of learning prevailing among the masses. For instance, it is a common perception that online programs are harder and costlier than campus-based ones. This article sheds light on some little-known facts about online education and compares the pros and cons of both virtual and traditional learning systems.

Common Myths about Online or Distance-Learning Programs and the realities

Online programs are tougher

This is not true! Online programs present the same curriculum, semester systems and syllabus as is offered by campus-based institutes. The only difference is of delivery format of assignments and lectures. In fact, online courses are more flexible in their approach and easier to enroll and attend than on-campus courses. You can learn and take lectures from your kitchen, office or before bedtime and receive written notes from lecturers, which is not possible in a traditional environment.

Online courses are costlier
Price wise online courses are inexpensive comparatively since there is no traveling, parking fees or accommodation expenses involved. The fee for online courses varies widely but you only have to spend on your education and nothing else. You may have to invest around $110-170 for public universities and $100-300 for private institutions offering online courses apart from registration and enrollment charges, that's all.

Online colleges never offer scholarships or financial aid
Same types of scholarships and financial aid programs are available for most online students as are for on-campus students. However, you need to confirm the accreditation status of your chosen online college in order to become eligible for such benefits. If the college hasn't been recognized by the US Department of Education (DOE), then you cannot be termed eligible for financial aid programs.

Online colleges don't acknowledge work experience as credit
Online colleges do acknowledge work experience and the skills learned independently and offer credit but you will be required to undergo a proficiency exam if you possess experience in areas related to the coursework. Such programs/exams are:

  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
  • Proficiency Examination Program (PEP)
  • Officially recognized portfolio citing skills for which college credit is sought
  • Working in collaboration with your academic advisor

The Ground rules of Online Learning
Admissions criteria and procedure is similar for both online and on-campus courses:

Whether you have opted for enrollment in an online course or offline one, the admission process will be the same as well as the eligibility criteria. Application requirement, test scores and fee ranges however, will vary according to the university and course. You can receive more information regarding this aspect from the online school you have selected.

Another fact to be noted is that the content of online courses is usually the same as offline ones and assignments are also emailed to the teacher in both modes of learning. In online courses, examinations are given online and coursework in hard-copy isn't always required, which is the only difference between online and offline learning experience.

Online and offline classes are structured similarly:
Online and offline classes are structured similarly and all students are required to attend the lecture at the same time unless you have enrolled for a self-paced degree program, which allows you to start at any time.

Computer and methodicalnecessities
Online students must have access to an up-to-date computer on a regular basis, a personal email ID and a high-speed Internet connection.There might be other requirements like some special software and files, which will be provided by your chosen school.

What you need to know?

  • Information about the required browser
  • Appropriate speed of the Internet connection
  • Necessary software required such as latest version of Microsoft Office

If you have fulfilled all the above mentioned necessities then the chances are high and bright that you will be enjoying a pleasant experience of online learning. Majority of schools provide a test page that lets you evaluate if you have the right equipment or not for getting started.

Fast-tracked Pace vs Traditional Rosters:
Most online courses follow similar pattern of semesters and curriculum schedules as the customary campus-based system. Some self-paced ones are different because these allow students to devise their own routine. Online classes are also structured around a network of continuous assignments and assessments just like on-campus classes. The duration required for completing a course is usually kept similar as well except for self-paced or accelerated ones, which can get completed quickly.

What to Expect in a Virtual Classroom

Email and chat sessions with your professor:
It is a misconception that online courses lack the personalized touch that traditional courses offer because teacher-student interaction is not possible. However, this type of interaction is possible via emails, discussions, and chat sessions with the instructors, which are a mandatory part of every lecture. The only difference is that one cannot communicate face-to-face with the instructors in an online classroom.

The beneficial factor is that emails and chat sessions are even more rewarding because there is no such time constraint involved and every student gets the opportunity to ask questions whether during chat or through emails. Students can also post queries on the bulletin boards. All virtual classes are hosted through a secure server and students can log in anytime and from anywhere.

Various means can be utilized for encouraging maximum correspondence in a virtual classroom including:

  • Email
  • Instant Messaging (IM)
  • Streaming Video
  • Video Conferencing

If you are new to virtual learning environment, don't worry a bit because you will receive adequate training from your online school about everything even how to setup your computer before the classes commence. Moreover, every online school offers 24 hour technical support service, which you can benefit from greatly.

Send assignments via email
Online learning heavily relies on emails since you will be communicating and interacting with your classmates, teachers and peers through them. Furthermore, you will be turning in your assignments and homework via emails too using components of Microsoft Office.

Take part in colloquiums
A colloquium is a programmedconference or meeting usually addressed by a different speaker on a different themeevery time. Typically, these serve as a tool for enhancingthe online classroom experience. Colloquiums may be presented through video streaming, video conferencing or via the campus' official website.

Participate in Blackboard discussions
The conversations between students that are conducted on live discussion board sessions or chat sessions are often recorded and archived for the purpose of managing blackboard archiving. Blackboard conversations usually contain student's responses on a particular topic thread and also the back and forth messages. This is just like the question-answer session in a traditional classroom setting.

You may need to buy textbooks
Purchasing textbooks is an aspect that is similar in both traditional and online learning methods. You will be getting reading assignments as well. The added benefit that a virtual student enjoys is that a lot of information is available online and this serves as supplemental source of guidance. Your instructors will refer websites which you will have to check and discuss later during the virtual class or chat session.

Learn to get along well with advisors and classmates
Just like traditional learning environment, distance learning requires you to converse and interact with fellow classmates, teachers and academic advisors. Also class participation is equally essential. Academic advisor will guide you properly about planning your study routine and curriculum as well as will help you out wherever you get stuck. If you have enrolled for just one or two courses online, then probably you won't be having an advisor.