A Student’s Guide to Getting Started on E-learning

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A Student’s Guide to Getting Started on E-learning

A Student’s Guide to Getting Started on E-learning

The COVID-19 pandemic rages on, and classes are bound to start soon, but physical classes may not be ideal as of the moment because social distancing is part of the safety measures during this time. However, e-learning is a viable option for those who want to continue their education but within the safety of their own homes.

What Is E-learning?

The North Carolina Education Cabinet defines e-learning as “learning utilizing electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.” As we are living in a digital age and technological innovations keep getting better and more efficient, e-learning becomes less intimidating and more appealing.

Getting Started

What Do You Need from the Course?

Before you commit to a fully online program, you need to think carefully about the following:

Degree programs encompass a broad understanding of your field of study, and you can finish it within two to four years.

Certificate programs focus on specialized knowledge and take a few months to a few years to complete.

  • Learning methods

Preference to learning on your own and setting your own schedules

Have a set schedule or guide

  • Admission standards

Learning institutions with stricter admission requirements

Learning institutions with lax admission requirements

  • Time of completion

Your chosen course or field of study partly determines the time frame of your coursework.

  • Budget

A lot of online courses are free, but some courses, especially master classes or those offered by high-quality institutions, may cost more.

Getting Started

Delivery Type

People have varying preferences and comfort levels in terms of learning styles. Find out which learning style works best for you:

  • Fully online or hybrid — with a fully online program, teachers present their lectures through a streaming or video conference platform and upload the course materials on the internet. You can email your homework or use apps or other platforms to submit your requirements. You can take quizzes online, although instructors may require you to take some exams in person.

    Make sure to check your course syllabus or ask your instructor in case your desired fully online course still requires in-person exams or meetings.

    Meanwhile, a hybrid program uses both traditional and online teaching methods. The number and frequency of online sessions and in-person sessions depend on the subject matter and how much of the course content relies on hands-on learning. These blended classes are an excellent option for those who want to try e-learning but are not yet fully confident about doing away with the traditional classroom-education methods.

  • Synchronous or asynchronous — synchronous classes require you to log on to a video-streaming platform at a specific time to join real-time lectures. The classes may be held on campus with some e-learning students joining the classes online, or you may be in a group video call with other students and your instructor.

    If you have asynchronous classes, you can access the lecture and other learning materials anytime. The materials may be accessible all at once, or they may be available in increments. You can work on your own, or the teacher can set the pace of learning.

  • Self-paced or directed — you take full responsibility for completing the program if the education is self-paced. You set your own deadlines and start/end dates. Instructors, peers, or a grading software can grade your class performance or your work.

    Self-paced learning is perfect for those who are highly motivated and have the discipline to stay focused while learning independently.

    If you thrive in a learning environment where an external force (e.g., an instructor or a school) guides or sets the pace of learning, then directed education is for you. You can choose when you can start or complete a course, or you can follow the school’s timeline, in the case of term-based courses. Although directed courses have their set deadlines, there are some instances when schools allow you and your instructor to make arrangements on when to submit assignments.

  • Teacher led or mainly digital — in a teacher-led course, instructors are more involved in the learning process. They provide the materials, deliver the lecture, and address students’ questions and other concerns through email or video calls. Occasionally, they may need to meet their students in person.

    In a digital course, instructors use web-based media (e.g., lectures, presentations, videos) to teach lessons, and students may work on hands-on activities or problem-solving activities after viewing or listening to the learning materials. Instructors may be the ones grading the homework, although a grading software or professional graders may also do that task.

E-learning Providers

Your choice of e-learning providers depends on the answers to this page’s section on what to consider if you want to try e-learning. Each provider has its own pros and cons, which are listed below:

Types of Providers



Nonprofit Universities

  • Are mostly extensions of physical campuses
  • Offer traditional certificates and degrees
  • Have the same timeline, teachers, and curricula for both online classes and in-person classes
  • Are accredited institutions, so you can apply for student loans
  • Will still cost more for students from out of state

For-profit Universities

  • Can offer degrees and connections with businesses and industry leaders
  • Students can pursue any degree, which may be offered as a fully online program
  • More expensive

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

  • Open to everyone
  • Unlimited enrollment
  • Usually won’t cost anything
  • Self-paced
  • Easily accessible
  • Certificate may be available if one finishes a course or courses
  • Some MOOC institutions may partner with industry leaders to offer certifications/course credits but may require fees and take three weeks to one year to complete.
  • High dropout rate
  • Lack of supervision by instructors
  • May have unclear metrics for evaluating student performance

Community Colleges

  • Are more cost-effective alternatives to four-year universities
  • Offer two-year courses/degrees
  • Available only to local students
  • Only a few offer fully online degree programs.
  • You may still need to have in-person courses aside from online courses.

Vocational Schools

  • Focus on trade-specific, practical occupations
  • Are also cost-effective
  • May not have many options for fully online degrees because the degree’s hands-on nature requires students to meet in person for classes or training

Professional Development Platforms

  • For people who want to learn specific subjects
  • Self-paced learning
  • May be included in the curricula of some colleges
  • Some are free while some charge a minimal amount for monthly subscriptions with varying features
  • The completion time depends on the student and the platform.
  • Badges or certification of completion given
  • Will still cost more for students from out of state

What You Need for E-learning

You can expect needing or using the following on your online courses:

  • Apps — these may be used to communicate with the instructors and fellow students, to create an interactive learning environment where students can test their knowledge after reading their course material, or to house learning management systems that can provide the two aforementioned functions.
  • Multimedia — students receive instruction or acquire knowledge through web-based media. For example, they can watch videos of instructors or experts presenting a walk-through of certain topics or concepts.
  • Devices — students can use laptops, tablets, and phones anywhere in the world to access the course materials. Those who need to go out for work or leave their homes often may not need desktop computers to do their coursework. You may also need to learn how to troubleshoot basic software and hardware issues.
  • Internet — as long as there is stable internet access, e-learning is possible and convenient.

The Benefits of E-learning

Cost-effectiveness — you don’t have to worry about fare, transportation, and gas and parking fees (if you’re driving your own vehicle). You also don’t have to spend extra cash on food or eating out.

Accessibility — you can take the course anywhere as long as you have internet access.

Convenience — you can structure your courses around your lifestyle. You don’t have to change your work schedule. If you have kids, you need not worry about getting child care. Those who have social anxiety or are uncomfortable with face-to-face interactions can participate in classes but enjoy the privacy of their own homes.

Persons with disabilities or those who live far away don’t have to go through the hassles of commuting to and from school. Those who have learning or developmental disabilities can work at a pace that suits their needs.

Tips for E-learners

Since you’re learning at home and on your own, you should be prepared to deal with the responsibility and consequences of choosing the learning method you prefer. It pays to have effective strategies to manage juggling school and work:

Do your research — know as much as you can about e-learning and the online courses you want to take before you actually decide on enrolling for a full program. Ask teachers or those who have tried e-learning, or check out online forums for advice, recommendations, support, and additional information. You may also try taking one online course just so you can see if e-learning matches your learning style and needs.

Set realistic expectations and goals — even if you can schedule your classes or set your own pace of learning, you still need to establish and follow your schedule and deadlines if you want to complete the program by the target date. You don’t want a mediocre performance, but you also don’t want to stress yourself out.

Improve your self - discipline and focus—being comfortable at home may, at times, make you too complacent because there is no one watching you as you learn. Distractions may be occasionally healthy, but you won’t be able to get anything done if you don’t strengthen your resolve to study. You need to concentrate so you can finish tasks and assignments on time and you won’t be forced to cram.

Be a proactive learner — check for announcements and updates, and be more involved in class discussions. You can also check out references not mentioned in your course syllabus so you have a diverse source of information.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle — taking online courses, especially those that are part of full programs, may just be as demanding as traditional classes are. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get enough rest and sleep. Remember to take care of your mental health too.

Take breaks every now and then to avoid overwhelming yourself with information and to recharge your creative batteries, or you can try meditation.


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