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How does it work?

A fairly brand new concept, E-Learning is still under a period of trial and experimentation. Schools and Universities are testing the Internet waters to find the best methods of instruction, levels of intensity, and modes of communication between professors and students. The goal of most E-Learning programs is not to completely replace in-classroom programs; not yet, anyway. Their goal is to offer an alternative and/or educational subsidy to students who are not able to physically attend a university- because of their job, geographical location, family obligations, etc. This is changing. How it will change, however, is currently a hot debate.

Many Distance and E-Learning programs require that you spend at least a minimum amount of time on campus attending a lecture, a lab, a group project meeting, etc. There are also many programs designed for students residing in a different country than that of the program. For live interface with the professors or classmates some programs offer video/audio conferencing, while others offer live chat forums.

What is the difference between E-Learning and Distance/Correspondence Learning?

Distance/Correspondence Learning is simply a method of learning that allows a student to study away from the educational facility; i.e. at home, work, or in another country. This method is nothing new; it’s been around for hundreds of years. At one time students could only correspond with their universities through mail with pen and paper. Now they can receive books, audio cassettes, videos, and most recently instruction online with

E-Learning. E-Learning is a type of Distance/Correspondence Learning.

What kind of Courses are offered?

Courses from all realms and levels of education are offered. You can find non-credit based courses that one might take out of pure interest or for personal pleasure, or credit-based courses that are geared towards a degree program. You can find courses at the high school level, undergraduate level, graduate level, postgraduate level, and certificate programs in specialized, technical and vocational fields. There are courses structured on the traditional university semester schedule, and some that have developed their own schedule; often shorter than the traditional semester system.

Basic Structure- synchronous vs. asynchronous courses

There are two ways to "go to class" online: 1. take synchronous courses, or 2. take asynchronous courses. Synchronous courses take place in real time with live student- professor participation and interaction (i.e. English 101 from 10:00 to 12:00 every Tuesday- attendance required). Depending on the technology available this could entail simple text exchange or live audio/video conferencing.

Asynchronous courses allow you to "go to class" on your own schedule whenever you have time. Generally you are required to "login" to lectures for a certain amount of time per week. Logging in with asynchronous courses means logging in to view any presentations, audio/video clips, exercises, lectures, etc. Asynchronous courses may be better for those who have hectic and dynamic schedules.

An asynchronous course is generally based on the following four elements:

1. Students register online for courses. They are then given a username and password that will give them access to the course.

2. Professors create the material and content for the course and put it online.

3. A Home Page with instructions and orientation information will be the student’s guide on what to do and how to do it. It is here where you will see what lectures you need to read, what tests or quizzes you need to take, and/or what exercises you need to complete. The Home Page will always be your starting point.

4. Communication between fellow students and professors should be frequent in a good program. It is in this part of the course that you learn the most- through feedback, chat groups, group projects etc.


When looking for a program you should judge its value by the following factors: its accreditation and official recognition, the quality of its faculty and the extent of their experience, the ratio of faculty/student, the method of instruction, resources available to their E-Learning students (library, computer programs, etc.), student support and academic advising services, completion and success rate of graduates, and of course the costs (fees and tuition).

The school’s accreditation will be the first thing to look at. Find out if it is approved by the country’s minister of education, or in the case of the USA, by one of the private accrediting agencies. It would be a shame to spend your money and time on a program that no one will recognize due to its lack of accreditation or national recognition.


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