Intro to Online Learning

This page contains a basic introduction to online learning vocabulary and myths, along with comments from an expert about how online learning development differs from face to face.


Unit Overview and Objectives

This unit has no measurable objectives or deliverables.  Rather, it is intended to provide you with a brief introduction to various aspects of online learning and lay a foundation for your future work.


What is online learning?

Many people think that online courses are “self-paced”, meaning that you can complete the course in your own time frame, at your own rate. This is not true of most online college courses since they run in a typical semester, just like face to face classes.  They also have a schedule that requires you to participate in discussions and submit assignments on specific dates.
Many of the same things that happen in a face to face class will happen here in your online classroom.  The instructor will post announcements, provide feedback on your assignments, and answer your questions in the discussion group.  You will also be able to discuss class topics with the other students.

So, although you may never meet your fellow students in person, you will get to know them through your online course communications and you will be part of a learning community – where you all have similar goals and experiences as you explore the online learning environment.


Online Learning Vocabulary

There are a few terms you should become familiar with if you are going to be an online instructor.

E-Learning or Online Learning

Describes learning (usually structured) that is delivered using the Internet and web tools.

Learning Management System (LMS)

This is a software platform that manages the online learning experience and provides tools for creating and teaching online.


The LMS used at UNC.


This refers to items that happen in “real time” or “live”.  A phone call is synchronous (you are both there at the same time).


Things that do not happen in “real time” or “live”.   Email is asynchronous because there is a time lapse between your email message and any replies.

Note: There is a longer glossary of terms available if you go to Glossary in the course menu.  If you look at it now, be sure to come back to the Intro to Online Learning topic to continue.


Myths About Online Learning

In addition to thinking that online course are “self-paced”, students often think that online course will be easier and less time consuming than face to face courses.  While it is true that you will not spend time going to class, online courses require the same amount of work as face to face courses – the only real difference being that you don’t have to commute to campus.  You will still need to schedule time each day to login to the class, review the course materials, participate in discussions, complete homework, and work on assignments.

This is an interesting site that presents 10 myths about online learning and dispels each with a short video presentation.

The 10 Myths About Online Education


Being successful as an online STUDENT and INSTRUCTOR

Do you think you can be successful as an online student? 

Take a look at this list of characteristics of a successful online student:
What makes a successful online student

And what about your qualifications as a potential online instructor?

Although this is from another university in the area, it pretty well says it all:
Recommended Competencies

Obviously, there are some of these technology related competencies that you may not have YET, so don’t worry about those.  But think about the other items and be prepared to incorporate some of this information into your Introduction.


How Designing and Teaching E-Learning is Different than Face to Face

Now that you have a little insight into how online learning is different for students, let’s take a look at how it will be different for you as an instructor.

This video clip of Gilly Salmon discusses how planning and teaching online instruction differs from face to face instruction.

Dr. Salmon is well known in the field and is author of a book entitled E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online.


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