Online courses are just one form of distance learning. Other forms of distance learning can include Tele-Web courses (courses delivered over television and on the Internet), telecourses (courses delivered on television), videoteleconference courses (two-way audio and video), and even standard correspondence courses.
- Delivered over the Internet and can be accessed from a computer with a Web browser (ex., Internet Explorer or Firefox).
- Can be asynchronous (delivered at your convenience, any time or place) or they can be synchronous (students are online at a specified time).
- Require self-directed learning. What that means is that you must be committed to learning. You need the self-discipline and motivation to make sure that you commit the time and energy that is required to fulfill the course requirements. You should enjoy learning new things and take responsibility for your own learning. That doesn't necessarily mean that you must learn in isolation - there are usually lots of opportunities to share and interact with fellow students and your instructor over the Web. Virtual chats, discussion boards, video e-mail, the telephone, and e-mail all allow you to keep connected with your peers and help you to learn in a collaborative atmosphere.
- Not easier than on-campus courses. Since you need to actively participate in your learning, you will find that online courses require a bit more effort than standard lecture courses. The effort, however, usually results in a greater feeling of accomplishment and a deeper level of understanding when you've completed the course.
- Are ideal for students who can't get to on-campus classes. If your work schedule or family commitments don't allow you to attend classes on campus, then distance learning may provide the opportunity you're looking for.
- Can also be used to enhance traditional on-campus courses. The instructor can provide Web-based material and online communication features to add another level to a regular course. Some courses are delivered in a hybrid format - some classes in person and some classes online.
Online students are entitled to the same student services that on-campus students receive.
You must remember, when registering for an online course, to check the attendance requirements. Some courses require students to attend one or more on-campus classes, while other have no attendance requirements. Usually, if you are unable to attend an on-campus course, arrangements can be made for you to receive the materials, but it's best to check before completing your registration. There are also certain requirements for online course participation, particularly regarding computer hardware, software, and Internet connection capabilities. Be sure to check the Computer Hardware and Software Requirements page and also ask if the course you are interested in has any special requirements.