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FAQ Online Learning FAQ

Questions & Answers on online learning & courses

  1. Carolyn
    How do online courses differ from traditional courses?
    Traditionally, courses take place in a class room with other students and a teacher. With online courses, you can study from anywhere so long as you have access to a computer and an internet connection. There is usually limited contact with the teacher, and any interaction with other students is usually done through online discussion forums. Usually, you can take online courses at your own pace and study when it is convenient to you. With online courses, self-motivation is key!

    Do online courses have deadlines?
    This depends on the course. Some don't have any deadlines and you can submit the coursework whenever you choose. Others do have deadlines that you need to respect. These could be a specific date or a time frame in which to complete a task. You can check this on the course information page before you enrol on an online course.

    Do you ever get to meet your teacher?
    The advantage of online courses is that you can study from anywhere - you don't have to go to a specific location to take the course. The drawback of this is that you probably won't meet your instructor face to face. Many online courses, however, allow you to interact with your teacher via e-mail, chat rooms or using discussion forums.

    Do you ever have to go to a classroom?
    Some online courses offer site-based final exams which usually take place in designated test-centres. In most cases, though, you will not be required to go to a classroom as the whole course takes place online.

    Can you get a qualification from an online course?
    Yes. Many online courses offer certificates on successful completion of a course. These can come in various formats and some involve a fee. For more information on certificates offered by the main MOOC providers, visit MoocLab's Certificates Resource Page

    How much do online courses cost?
    Usually online courses are considerably cheaper than taking an equivalent campus-based course, and many are offered free of charge, notably MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) although there is often a fee to receive a Certificate of completion. The course information page will give you details on the costs involved.

    What is a MOOC?
    MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. It's an educational course which is delivered online and is open to anyone wishing to enrol. MOOCs are often delivered by renowned professors from famous universities and typically feature a blend of video content, quizzes, discussion boards, downloadable readings, and peer-to-peer assessment of learning. The goal of MOOCs is to reach a much larger audience than traditional courses can accommodate. MOOC platforms usually give learners an option to "audit" their courses free of charge or, for a fee, learners can gain a Certificate of Completion. In some cases, courses may only be accessible for a fee, although this remains considerably less than the cost of traditional campus courses.

    Are online courses easier than campus-based courses?
    This all depends on the type of course you are taking, but usually not. Many online courses cover university level topics and are based on the university campus equivalent course. If anything, taking a course online can be more difficult because it will require a lot of self-discipline and there is no face to face interaction with peers or instructors. They do, however, offer more flexibility and you can take them from the comfort of your own home. To find out if Online Learning is right for you, see MoocLab's Guide to Getting started with online learning

    How do you look for online courses?
    There are various ways you can search for online courses. If you already know which course provider platform you want to use, just visit their website and use the search and filter tools to narrow down your search. To find out which are the best providers of free and low-cost online courses, visit MoocLab's Reviews Page.
    If you don't have a particular platform in mind, your best option is to use an online course directory site. These sites aggregate courses from many different providers, and also offer search and filtering tools to help with your serach. To learn more, visit MoocLab's Guide to Using Online Course Directories.

    Is online learning right for me?
    You will need to carefully consider the reasons for taking an online course rather than a campus-based one. It takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation to study a course online and you may be required to work without any face-to-face interaction with your teacher or classmates and often with little academic support.

    The following list of questions will help you decide if online learning is right for you:

    1. Do you have a clear educational goal?

    2. Are you good at managing your time?

    3. Are you self-disciplined?

    4. Are you good at working in isolation?

    5. Do you have few other work/life commitments at the moment?

    6. Are you able to schedule time to complete assignments without interference?

    7. Are you able to take responsibility for accomplishing your assignments?

    8. Do you have regular access to a computer and the Internet?


    If you answered yes to at least 5 of the above questions, then you are on the right track.

    See MoocLab's Guide: Getting started with online learning.

    How do you choose what subject to study?
    The important thing is to choose a subject you’re interested in and that will help you reach your goals.

    Establish what your goals are – maybe you want to find out about a subject purely because you’re interested in it, or you may want to deepen your understanding of a topic you are already studying. Or perhaps you want to develop your career by learning a specific skill needed for a job role.

    Check the course syllabuses or specifications which set out course content and requirements to see what topics will be covered and ensure they match your requirements.

    Explore jobsites and careers to see what skills are in demand in your field.

    See MoocLab's Guide: Getting started with online learning.

    What type of online course should you start with?
    Online courses come in numerous different formats which enable you to complete everything from academic qualifications to workplace training to learning a new hobby.
    If you are new to online learning, the best place to start is by exploring some of the free options. There are a considerable number of free courses and resources available on the internet that are of a very high standard. For an overview of your options, visit The Beginner’s Guide to e-Learning (I).

    What's the best way to study an online course?
    Taking a course online is very different to the more familiar classroom experience. The following free tips & guides will help you:

    Online study tips


    How to study a MOOC

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