Online Learning Environment: What to Expect When the Internet is Your Classroom

Will we ever see the day when the great educational institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and Cambridge actually close their doors?  We may, but probably not for a while.  However, it is not unlikely that the doors of the community college nearby will not be open for too much longer.  Why is this?  It’s because online learning is taking the educational world by storm!  A few years ago it was already common for college professors to put assignments and content online, but today it is commonplace to be able to take a whole course, even a whole degree program without even seeing the university that’s awarding the degree.  So what is there to online learning?

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Online learning is a rather broad description and it can refer to either self-paced or instructor led courses that are available over the internet. It also refers to, more granular, skills based training.  It even refers to what is essentially tutoring, in the form of a video.  By this I mean sites like YouTube, where plenty of educational content is available, and the great Khan Academy, where you can receive extremely well-explained lessons on just about all the technical (and a few non-technical) subjects a high-school or college student might be interested in getting help with.

When considering online learning programs it is very important to consider which is right for you between self-paced and instructor led online learning programs.

 Online Learning Environment: What to Expect When the Internet is Your Classroom

Self-Paced Programs

With self-paced online learning, a course is put together that just contains the course material.  This will usually be a series of videos, with supplemental materials that will allow you to follow along with what the instructor is explaining in the videos. The quality of these programs is often very high, because industry professionals are chosen to teach because of their high level of content knowledge and their strong ability to teach and explain complicated subjects.  However, these industry professionals are not college professors, and they will likely not be available to explain and re-explain things the way one might expect from an instructor in a more traditional educational setting.  With self-paced programs, generally you pay for access to videos and supplementary materials, with little access to the instructor of the course.

Self-paced programs require a significant amount of motivation and a willingness to spend as much time as it takes on a particular module to make sure you have a real grasp of what’s being taught.  For a less motivated student, it is definitely possible to work through a self-paced program and learn next to nothing.  To really benefit from self-paced online learning, it is essential that you pay close attention and carefully work through everything that’s explained in each section of the course until you really get it.


Instructor Led Programs

Instructor led courses course come with material as well, but in instructor led courses, students submit their work and are given feedback from the instructor.  Instructor led courses are the ones offered by online degree granting programs.  Often the online learning offered in instructor led courses is supplemental or parallel to what’s done in an on-campus course at the same college.

Between self paced learning and instructor led learning, I’ll bet you can guess which is the more expensive option.  Naturally the time of an instructor is valuable.  If you sign up for instructor led online learning programs, expect to pay significantly more than you would pay for self-paced learning.

Instructor led programs are the ones that often lead to a degree or a certificate.  If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the way to go.  These programs are very often linked to established educational intuitions, many of which have been around since long before internet education, and long before the internet was available.  Most of these institutions still haven’t recognized the most obvious fact associated with online learning.  It is far less expensive to deliver educational content online than it is to deliver it in a classroom.  For the time being, most of these colleges and universities charge the same tuition to their online students as they do to their on-campus students.  I’m sure they have plenty of good arguments to justify why they shouldn’t diminish the value of the degrees that they offer, but it’s sad to see them overcharging their students.  Consider this if you’re thinking of enrolling in an online program because of the reduced costs.  The tuition will likely not be any cheaper.  However, you’ll probably save on transportation and housing.

Is a degree what you need? Call Now: 877-700-0981
online learning environment 300x227 Online Learning Environment: What to Expect When the Internet is Your Classroom
Is a degree what you need? Call Now: 877-700-0981

Academic vs. Skills Based Online Learning

These days degrees in almost all subjects can be earned online.  There are even quite a few universities that don’t even offer classes in the traditional classroom setting.  Online degrees began as an extension of distance learning programs that had been offered previously, but because of the interactive environment that the internet offers, online degrees are much more popular and have a much better reputation than distance learning ever did.

Skills based programs are offered by bricks-and-mortar schools as well, but there are quite a few training websites that focus on skill building in areas that don’t directly correspond to degree or certificate programs. is a site where an extremely wide range of skills can be learned. is another one that focuses on programming and business training.  There are several others that offer educational content in a wide range of fields from knitting to programming.  With skills based programs, it is possible to pick and choose which skills you’ll need, either to get a job, or to gain and improve your skills in an area that your company is looking for.  At skills training websites, it is possible to study most skills at a great level of depth, probably beyond what would be available at anything other than the most specialized technical schools.


Online learning is in the process of revolutionizing education as we know it.  Although the doors of the community college in your area may stay open for several more years, look to see the number of students slowly dwindle, as more and more students are taking their courses and learning their skills online, from self-paced programs and instructor led programs where they are getting in-depth exposure to skills they need to succeed and also earning degrees from the comfort and convenience of their own homes.

Is a degree what you need? Call Now: 877-700-0981

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