About Online Courses
What are Distance Learning and Online Courses?
Distance learning takes place when students and faculty members are separated from each other by location or time. Distance learning courses usually have little or no requirement for synchronous ("live") meetings, whether in a physical location or across the Internet. However, some courses and faculty members may require that students attend a face-to-face session on campus or participate online at a particular day and time.
Distance learning courses and programs provide an attractive alternative to individuals with busy schedules or limited access to local educational programs. By offering flexible and convenient access to the course materials and assignments, distance learning is attractive to a wide variety of students. Distance learning courses can include the use of online courseware, video streaming, videoconferencing, web conferencing, or a combination of these modalities, and sometimes in conjunction with face-to-face meetings.
Online courses are one type of distance learning, and they are delivered via the Internet. They are designed to allow students to earn college credit from their home, office, or while traveling. Online courses may include exercises, projects, and collaborative assignments. The learning environment may feature tutorials and courses with audio lectures, photo materials, discussions, chat rooms, readings, illustrations, and video. Online courses require extreme self-discipline. Students must log on and be prepared to read through many web pages and comments. A great deal of time is spent visiting websites, reading articles, contributing to online discussions and chats, and preparing and submitting assignments. Completing online quizzes, exams and participating in online group projects are common.
Are Distance Learning and Online Courses Right for You?
While distance learning programs provide an attractive alternative to individuals with busy schedules or limited access to local educational programs, they are not the best choice for everyone.
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration in determining whether distance learning is right for you. For example:
- You should determine your learning style and degree of self-discipline to be sure that you will be motivated to complete online coursework. Distance learning classes are very focused and intense, and require a great deal of independent work.
- You should find out what kind of time requirement will be expected of you for each distance learning class. For example, how much time will be required each week for you to complete the coursework and assignments? Some classes may require you to visit campus and meet with faculty or attend videoconferences, while others may be offered exclusively online.
Take the following short self-assessments to help determine if distance learning is a good match with your personality and learning style:
Are my personal traits, circumstances, and lifestyle conducive to success in online learning?
Do I have the technical skills needed for online learning?
Does my computer meet the minimum specifications for online learning? Review the D2L Platform Requirements and Complete the System Check at this link.
Generally speaking, the following traits are ones that lead to student success in online classes:
- Self-Directed and motivated - You'll need to be able to provide the structure needed to finish the course.
- Independent - Although you will have communication with students and your instructor, you'll need to be able to complete tasks alone away from the personal interaction (voice inflection, hear reactions, see facial expressions) you may be used to in a face-to-face course.
- Able to stay on task - You will need to develop a schedule to complete your work on time.
- Comfortable with computers - You'll need to possess the technical skills, i.e. - downloading software and installing plug-ins to complete the course.
- Able to use email, internet browser, word processor - You'll access your class and complete the majority of your work online.
- Like to read and write - You'll need to be able to read large amounts of information, synthesize it and communicate it through the written word.
- Inquisitive - You need to speak up online and ask questions when you have them.
Will I need to come to campus?
Some courses do require on-campus meetings for activities such as an orientation, student presentations, and exams. Please carefully read the detailed course descriptions when you register and check with your faculty member to determine whether any face-to-face meetings will be required.
How are tests administered?
Most online courses have projects and exams that are conducted online. Some courses do require on-campus exams. Please carefully read the detailed course description for any specific testing requirements. In some cases, an instructor may require you to have your exam proctored. If an online class does require a face-to-face exam and a student is unable to travel to campus to complete the exam, the student can make arrangements for an independent proctor.
Are credits for online courses transferable to other colleges?
Generally speaking, Shippensburg University credits are transferable to most colleges and universities. If you attend another college or university, you should first check with that college or university about transferring credits from Shippensburg University. There is no difference in how online and on-campus course credit and grades are recorded on an official Shippensburg University transcript.
How do I start an online course? Will the instructor contact me?
IMPORTANT: All students must use their Shippensburg University (ship.edu) email address for online courses. The instructor will email you approximately one (1) week before the start of the course at your ship.edu email account and provide you with directions for getting started. Students can access their online class in the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system at https://d2l.ship.edu.
How do I obtain the required textbooks?
Textbooks may be obtained from the Shippensburg University Bookstore by ordering them online and having them shipped to you, as well as purchasing them in person at the bookstore. PA residents should allow one (1) week, all others should allow two (2) weeks for delivery of any bookstore purchases. For more information about ordering class materials from the Shippensburg University Bookstore, go to Bookstore.
Can I access the Library resources from home?
Yes, all students taking online courses can access the library resources. To learn more about Shippensburg University’s library services, go to Library.
How do I obtain my transcript when the course is over?
You may obtain an official transcript (for free) from the Office of the Registrar by completing the Trasncript Request Form.
Where can I get more information about online courses and registration?
Please contact the Office of Professional, Continuing, and Distance Education Studies (PCDE) at 717-477-1502, firstname.lastname@example.org, or in Horton Hall 108 on the Shippensburg University campus.