What is Online Learning?

Carol Francois

Online learning is a term used to describe distance or correspondence courses that are offered over the Internet. The courses offered through online learning cover a wide range of subjects, audiences, and prices. This educational method is growing in popularity as a cost-effective method of providing access to education for a large population.

Online learning can be done from any location with internet access.
Online learning can be done from any location with internet access.

There are five main reasons behind the growth in online learning: access, efficiency, stability, cost, and technology. The explosion in online learning tools and the adoption of this method by both post-secondary educational institutions and high schools around the world speaks to the fundamental desire for more education. The expanded access to knowledge and information provides the groundwork necessary for many people to start new careers and gain new skills.

An advantage to online learning is the flexibility it offers.
An advantage to online learning is the flexibility it offers.

There are two types of online course access; open and restricted. Open access allows virtually anyone with an Internet browser to view the course material. This type of online learning does not require interaction with an instructor. The material covered can range from very specific instructions to university level courses. This initiative removes the barriers to advanced knowledge and allows anyone with the interest to learn.

Online resources may be used in addition to traditional learning tools in a classroom.
Online resources may be used in addition to traditional learning tools in a classroom.

The other type of online courses are restricted access courses. Restricted access is used to limit the class to registered students. These courses offer instructor interaction and are typically the method used by courses that require grades upon completion.

It is more efficient for both the educator and the student to access course materials online. From the educator perspective, the course lectures can be recorded once and reused. The recurring cost is for marking and moderating the class communications. This greatly reduced the staff time and costs.

Online courses allow students to complete coursework from a wide range of locations and remove the time restriction to access course lectures. Students are no longer required to travel to the class and many course materials are included in the fee.

The material for online courses provided by accredited educational institutions has been carefully reviewed and approved before the course is offered. Many introduction and intermediate courses do not change, as the material is static. As a result, the courses are stable and can be reused as needed.

Due to the reduced expenses for online courses, the fees are sometimes lower than a standard instructor-led course. Reduced course costs increases the availability of education to a broader number of people. Additional savings by the student in transportation and related costs make online learning the most cost effective learning method available.

Technology continues to expand to meet the needs of online students. These tools include mobile audio and video viewers, improved online interactive tests, and tool and course management software. The continued development in this area will further enhance the quality of online courses and encourage more people to further their education.

Some high schools offer online coursework, which is completed with the assistance of a teacher or parent.
Some high schools offer online coursework, which is completed with the assistance of a teacher or parent.

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Discussion Comments


GreenWeaver-For online learning games, I love Quia for my kids. Quia often models games after successful television game shows in order to teach various educational concepts.

For example, when my daughter was having difficulty with subjects and predicates, I was able to go on the site and they had a game that was modeled after, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

The questions all had dollar amounts and when the level of difficulty increased so did the dollar amount which made the game really entertaining and fun. I love this site and my daughter got a 100 on her test as a result.


BrickBack-I use online learning software with my kids to help them with their math. There is a program called, “Rainbow Rock” that was created by a company referred to as Singapore Math.

This is a company that provides the same math curricula that is used in Singapore. This is significant because Singapore often ranks in the top three in math worldwide.

They approach math differently then Americans. They pursue a method of mastery in which the child does not move on until they have mastered a concept. This means that their educational foundation is solid.

This is different than the spiral approach that is often used in American schools in which many topics are introduced at the same time but they are briefly reviewed and the child may not have time to mastered the material when it gets introduced again in a later segment with a higher degree of complexity.


Cupcake15-University online learning is expanding as well. Many online learning degrees are available completely online which allows the non traditional student the flexibility to go to school while they work or maintain a household and care for their children.

The online learning environment is very different than a regular classroom environment. Many people underestimate the amount of work involved in online learning classes.

Because it is online, you have to be even more structured in your study habits and the completion of your work and make sure that you have method s of contacting your professor for questions that you may have.

Each online learning course really requires about ten homework hours a week, so keep this in mind when you register for an online learning course.


Many online learning schools offer online learning courses for both high school and college levels. There is a growth of online learning programs in high schools that are referred to as a virtual school.

Virtual Schools allow kids to earn a high school education from the comforts of their own home.

These virtual schools are public schools and any child that lives in the state can apply. The materials are sent home and this offers an alternative to homeschooling because a certified teacher guides the courses.

The teacher communicates online and via email. This program saves the states a lot of money and allows parents some guidance in their children’s education.

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