Guide to Online Education

Research shows the number of college courses and degree programs delivered online grew significantly over the last decade. Despite its quick expansion, online education is a relatively new mode of learning: the National Center of Education Statistics reports that the majority of students who enroll in online programs do so without prior online learning experience. The same might be said of many academics tasked with designing and teaching online courses. This guide provides a thorough, yet accessible introduction to online education, including how courses work, methods of communication and support, and expert advice for successfully teaching and learning online.

Visit the following sections to learn more about several important aspects of online learning.

Learning Management Systems

Learning management systems (LMSes) can define how and when online learning occurs, how students and instructors interact, and which instructional methods could be used. This section introduces readers to the virtual classroom environment and describes the tools and software that support it. LMS experts provide information in a number of areas, including common and emerging features to know; how platforms could improve and personalize learning, and how to use course technology effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Education

Find answers to some of the most frequently asked about online learning. This section offers guidance for selecting, attending, and succeeding in online courses and degree programs. Other important themes include the effectiveness and credibility of online programs; accreditation and other quality indicators; how online courses work on a basic level; online student support services; and the technical skills and capabilities online programs commonly require.

Online Student Trends and Success Factors

Online courses and degrees tend to attract a more diverse range of students than those based on campuses. This section provides a snapshot of the students who enroll–and succeed–in online programs. Explore key trends and statistics regarding online learners, including students’ evolving demographics and reasons for pursuing education online, and some of the habits and qualities that contribute to online learning success.

Instructional Design in Online Programs

Though many online courses cover the same material as their campus-based equivalents, their structure and learning activities may vary. This section reviews some common approaches to—and best practices surrounding—online instructional design. Find information and resources for planning, creating, managing, and assessing the effectiveness of online courses, plus advice on how to find or select the appropriate learning technologies, instructional methods, and teaching materials.

Online Teaching Methods

There are many different ways instructors can teach and work with online learners. This section highlights various methods of teaching and communicating with students in the online learning environment, and techniques instructors might use to actively engage remote learners and individualize instruction. Readers will also explore the educational technology that makes online teaching, learning, and collaboration possible.

Student Services for Online Learners

Online education can give students a certain degree independence in their studies, but learners are not without support. Schools frequently extend the same student services to online learners that they offer students reporting to campuses. This page discusses several different types of online student services—academic, career, military, personal, and financial—and how they are delivered remotely. Experts also offer guidance for finding, initiating, and getting the most benefit from student support programs.

Expert Advice for Online Students

Researchers, professors, and higher education leaders share their expertise with students considering or attending online colleges. Experts discuss several important areas of the online learning process, from evaluating one’s readiness to learn online to selecting, enrolling, and thriving in online programs. Additional topics include some of the key structural and instructional differences that exist among programs and various means of online student support.

Student Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism remains one of the more consistently troubling issues in higher education for students, faculty, and administrators. This section examines how plagiarism is defined. It looks at plagiarism prevention strategies. And it explores how new plagiarism detection services are helping students and teachers detect instances of potential plagiarism in campus-based and online programs.