What is Online Learning?

Online learning is a method of delivering educational information via the internet instead of in a physical classroom. There are many different applications for online learning, ranging in scope from simple downloadable content (like iTunes U) through to structured programmes that include assessment and award. Study2U helps people who are looking to study online find accredited online courses and programmes. 

Online learning has struggled to find acceptance in academic circles. It's difference from the norm of campus-based education has raised questions over the support offered to students and the merit of the award. For some people an online education isn't suitable. They might find it hard to motivate themselves or difficult to study at home. This is fine: we don't think studying online is for everyone and would encourage anyone thinking about an online degree or course to consider what it will require from them in terms of time and commitment. 

However, if you're looking to get ahead or even change your career path, or are looking for a formal qualification in an area of personal interest to you, an online education is a way of achieving this without sacrificing your lifestyle as much as a campus-based education would require you to. 

Study2U provide information about online learning and education courses. We believe that online education is the most significant development in education technology since the cave wall. It's now possible for a classroom of students to comprise of people who live in completely different countries who can come together and share their cultural values and life experiences. We think online learning is pretty special and we'd like for you to use this site to learn about the online learning opportunities available to you. 


Why should I consider studying online?

Your classroom can be wherever you're connected to the internet. With mobile internet it's perfectly possible to join in a class discussion whilst taking the bus to work or working on your tan on the beach.

Richer class discussion  
The beauty of online discussion is that it creates a level playing field. No one person has a louder voice. The students with less confidence than their peers are typically more inclined to join a discussion when they're not physically standing in front of a room full of people. 

Somewhat ironically, online students can communicate better and more frequently with their fellow students than a group of students sat in the same room. This is because when students are available online it's easier to approach others. Some online classes allocate marks according to your individual contributions because this is seen as important for the student's overall understanding of the subject.

Control the pace of learning  
For some people online learning suits them particularly well because they can absorb information at their own pace and examine course content more thoroughly. A particularly useful feature for those of us who tend to drift off during lectures! Online students can pause and rewind their lectures or research the points that the lecturer has made before moving on. 

Online education accommodates different learning styles
Learning materials can be developed for different learning styles. A lecturer will often provide both a visual representation of an idea he is trying to convey along with an audio description it, to satisfy both visual and auditory learners.

Diversity of views  
Sharing common traits with your fellow students is definitely something that helps break the ice. But what if you find you share a common love of 19th century architecture or 60s music with someone born, raised and living in a country you could never imagine visiting? Your online class may span multiple states, countries or continents and be filled be people who inspire you. This means that as an online student, you will encounter a rich diversity of views held by people from completely different walks of life.

How do I study online?

Studying online isn't dissimilar from studying on campus. Online students interact with learning content, teachers and class members in a similar way to campus students. They view lectures, take part in discussions, have one-on-one tutorials with their teachers, work in groups, submit assignments and take exams. The difference is that all this takes place online and the students have control over when all these activities happen.

Just with a campus-based education, having access to the right information and the right people is key. With online learning, students have an online environment where they can interact on a one-to-one basis with their teachers and fellow students, or alternatively start or join open discussions about a subject. Other internet resources such as instant messaging or conferencing facilities help to ensure students are supported in their learning.

What’s the difference between online learning and Distance Learning?

Distance learning” refers to the idea of learning at a distance where learning materials are sent to the student. This was first put into practice by the University of London External System in 1858 and would have relied entirely on the postal system. Back then the distance learning experience may not have been a particuarly interactive system. Modern technology has succeeded in offering the advantages of the traditional classroom to distance learning students. Online learning is still in its infancy, with more people discovering the advantage of such a mode of study every day.

Is online learning a popular option?

In the US, online learning is quickly becoming mainstream. Europe has been slower to catch on, but we're seeing more of the established European universities respond to the increasing demand for an online method of studying their programmes.

The Sloan Consortium is a leading researcher of online learning. In a survey of more than 2,500 US universities and colleges, they found:

  • Over 3.9 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2007 term - a 12 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 12.9 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.2 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • Over 20 percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2007.

They concluded: “online enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population, with the most recent data demonstrating no signs of slowing.”