With more than 65 years of experience in distance education, Grantham University has become a specialist in online learning for adults. We're sharing some of our expertise by answering your most frequently asked online education questions:
Q: What is online learning?
A: Online learning (or distance education, as it’s known in certain circles) can generally be defined as academic material – classes and coursework – delivered via the Internet.
Q: How do online courses work?
A: Online courses are available through an institution’s virtual learning environment. All coursework, including discussions, tests and assignments, is completed electronically. Simply log-in through a web browser, click on the course link and you’re in class!
Note: See the “Online Learning System – Blackboard” section of The Adult Learner's Guide to Online Education for a how-to on Grantham’s learning management system.
Q: Are online courses truly available 24/7?
A: Convenience is one of the top reasons students choose to learn online. As long as assignments are turned in on time, it doesn’t matter when the work gets done.
Q: Is online learning effective?
A: Yes. And it’s more widespread than you might think. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, almost 30% of all higher education students are taking some courses online. And two-thirds of all academic leaders consider online learning a critical component of their long-term educational strategy.
Q: Is there any interaction with professors and other students?
A: Unlike on-ground classes, there is no hiding out in the “back row.” Everyone participates. Many online colleges require students to engage in weekly discussions. Professors provide feedback on assignments and are typically available via e-mail, phone and course chat rooms. Some even keep virtual office hours.
Q: Will I have an actual instructor?
A: Yes. All online courses have instructors with varying credentials and real-world expertise. Typically, your instructor will come from one of three different backgrounds:
- An instructor at a campus-based school who also teaches online courses.
- Someone who prefers online teaching only.
- An expert working full time in a particular career field while teaching online courses part-time in that same field. For example, your instructor for Criminal Justice 101 could also be the Chief of Police in a city or town near you.
Q: How much time will I spend studying?
A: Online learning is flexible. But you still have to earn the degree – and that takes work. On average, expect to spend 6-9 hours per week in coursework and studying for each class you take.
Q: Are online degrees accepted by employers?
A: Upon graduating from an online university, your diploma and transcript will be identical to those of traditional campus-based programs. Your diploma won’t distinguish you as an online student. That said, with 5.8 million higher education students currently taking at least one class online, employer acceptance of online learning is becoming the norm.
Q: Are online colleges accredited?
A: Reputable online universities, just like traditional campus-based colleges, are accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Accreditation assures that the institution operates on a sound financial basis, has an approved program of study, qualified instructors, adequate facilities and equipment, and approved recruitment and admissions policies. You can check for a school’s accreditation on the DOE’s Database of Accredited Programs and Institutions.
Q: Can anyone take an online course?
A: If you have Internet access and a computer, you can take an online class. If you’re highly motivated and can stick to a set study schedule, online classes could be your perfect fit.
Q: Do I have to wait until the start of a new semester to enroll?
A: Many online schools have monthly, bi-weekly or even weekly enrollment periods so you can get started on your degree program as quickly as possible. Also, many of these schools have continuous enrollment, meaning that once you enroll and start your courses, you can progress through each course without taking a break.
If you have more online education questions, you can learn more by downloading The Adult Learner's Guide to Online Education.