Keys to Online Learning

What is Online Learning?

The biggest difference between a face-to-face course and an online course is that an online course does not have set times where everyone is required to meet. Instead, online courses have an online classroom that is accessible 24/7. This classroom allows you to interact with other students and your instructor to accomplish many of the same methods of discussion and learning that are used in a tradtional classroom. At the University of Northern Colorado, we use the Blackboard course management system.

Blackboard—The Online Classroom

man at laptop on couchAlthough in online courses you may never see your instructor or the other students in person, many of the same things happen in Blackboard that happen in a face-to-face class. In fact, many on-campus classes at UNC include Blackboard support to accomplish some of these activities.

  • Instructors can make announcements, hand out materials, describe assignments, explain grading, ask the class questions, give quizzes and tests, collect assignments and provide feedback to students.
  • Students can share information, discuss course topics 1-on-1 or with the whole class, review assignments, collaborate on projects, take quizzes and tests, submit assignments, and ask the instructor questions.

The main difference between online learning and face-to-face classes is that many of these tasks happen:

  • In writing—you will still ask and answer questions, discuss course topics and collaborate with classmates, but most of this interaction will occur using the online discussion areas and e-mail.
  • Asynchronously—asynchronous means "not at the same time." Because not everyone will be "attending" class at the same time, these written communications will be viewed and responded to at a later time. There are still deadlines for completing course requirements, but not everyone will be completing them at the same time. Sometimes, instructors or groups of students will arrange to voluntarily "meet" in the online classroom, which allows for more immediate back-and-forth discussion.

What to Expect In an Online Course

A Course Schedule and Deadlines for Assignments
With the exception of Independent Study Online courses, most online courses are completed on a specific timeline with weekly deadlines for assignments and discussions. So, even though you can attend "anytime, anywhere" online, this weekly schedule allows for more interaction and knowledge sharing, helping you learn and collaborate with other students.

An Academic Challenge and a University Education
If you are taking a course from UNC, we commit to delivering you educational content that enriches your knowledge and supports your personal and career goals. Instructors and students in online courses at UNC hold each other responsible for engaged academic discussion and measured learning outcomes just as they would on-campus. You will get to know each other through your online communications and be part of the UNC learning community.

Keys to Online Learning—Other Topics

Online Course Demo—If you're new to online learning, view this quick video to see what it's like to actually "attend" an online course.

Tips to Succeed—Advice to help you succeed in your online courses

Technical Requirements—Minimum system resources you need to effectively attend and learn online


View a Video Demonstration of an Online Course

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