How do online courses work

Online courses are a form of online learning that offers all the perks of attending a university or college from the comfort of your home. With the added convenience of your schedule, here’s how online courses work.

How do online courses work
How do online courses work

Online learning is increasingly becoming popular as a viable alternative to on-campus study. It is offered by some of the world’s top-ranked institutions and there are courses available in almost every subject, as well as flexible timetables to suit almost every student’s lifestyle.

With the advancement in modern technology, students can study entirely online while still watching lectures, participating in a subject discussed in the virtual classroom, and socializing with classmates. In online courses, educational support is just as important as tutor feedback, and take great care to ensure that their students receive the same levels of support that they would receive on campus.

In this detailed article on how online courses work, you will get to know:

  • The resources for online learning
  • How online classes are delivered
  • Resources for online learning
  • How it is accessed
  • Online qualifications and lots more

How do online courses work

Depending on the institution where you take your online program, these resources are offered to you for learning online will. Some may require you to eBooks through online-only methods of delivery. 

Universities that offer using 100% online resources expect students to study using a combination of cutting-edge technological resources with no need to travel to attend lectures, exams, or in-person discussion sessions!

Before taking an online learning program, you’ll be an officially registered student at your university or college and have access to the same resources as an on-campus student, like a learning management system (like Blackboard), your institution’s digital library, student union membership, and more. An online degree is almost the same as taking a degree program on campus, but you have the freedom to have your own study schedule

The course instructor of your school will determine the format for each individual course and will select delivery methods best suited to your course or program. What an online Biology major course student needs to learn successfully will differ from what an Art History major student needs! 

Resources for Online Learning

If you are used to traditional learning, online learning may be a completely new experience for you. Below are the resources you need and how to make the most of them in your online learning journey!  

In general, before taking an online degree program you might need resources like: 

  • EBooks;
  • Journals;
  • Videos;
  • Recorded lectures;
  • Quizzes;
  • Discussion forums
  • Live Q&A sessions; and
  • Interviews.

1.eBooks, textbooks & journals

These are written materials that are essential resources in almost every online course.

From the advice of your course instructor, or by using the reading list for each course, it will be crucial to devote an adequate amount of your time to reading and understanding the topics in the literature. The main advantage of using eBooks is because they are completely portable, allowing you to study on the go from your phone, computer, or tablet. 

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Check whether your textbooks are included in your tuition fees When researching a course or program! This is because you may be required to pay extra for your textbooks, or they may be available as eBooks from your institution’s library.

2. Recorded lectures

The lecture is one of the staples of online and campus-based learning so recorded ones are an essential way of gaining a large amount of information in a short amount of time. Online learning enables you to attend lectures from the comfort of your home or your bedroom! 

Endeavor to make notes throughout your lectures; as it will make it easier for you to review for exams, and assignments you’ll need to complete your course.

3. Interactive sessions

The biggest downside of online education is the absence of face-to-face interaction and in-person discussions that can easily be provided by on-campus institutions. Online degree programs usually use a combination of discussion forums and interactive question-and-answer sessions thereby enabling students to interact with other students and instructors they need.

Read the rules and requirements of any online discussion forum or interactive session you want to join. You may be required by some institutions to create posts that have a minimum word count.

How Will Online Learning Be Delivered? 

Online learning resources will not be delivered via email, because it is an unreliable method of delivery.

Instead, online course learning resources will be delivered via the university’s online learning platform or environment. Depending on the software used, the learning platform varies but usually consists of a central online platform that students can access from their personal mobile, PC,  or tablet.

unending flexibility is one of the benefits of utilizing resources that are hosted entirely online. As an online student, you can choose your own time and schedule to access your course information and complete your assignments. This allows you to have freedom for other things such as your work, family, and other commitments. Students who wish to continue working while studying won’t have to put their careers on hold.

How is Online Learning Assessed?

Students who enroll in an online course or take a degree program or an individual course will still be tested at regular intervals throughout their study period. This is done to assess their understanding of the course materials.

If you are new to online education, it can be intimidating. Yet, online courses are taught by experienced professionals who ensure that your assessments are fair, comfortable, and help you make the most of your learning experience. 

Individual Assignments

Another method of assessment that students who are studying online will have the most experience with is Individual assignments. Each assignment has a topic, word count, and deadline. You’ll be required to produce a structured, reasoned argument with the guidelines set out by your course instructor. 

Discussion activities

An online academic discussion does not involve face-to-face discussions just like we do every day with friends and colleagues. Instead, it requires a different set of skills, and might not come as naturally when you first start an online academic discussion. These online discussions differ depending on the institution, but your course instructor will generally start each discussion with a question or topic for debate. Students will be told to research the topic and submit their responses to the task showing their own knowledge and understanding. Often, the students enter a debate with the ideas and views they submitted. 

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Journal activities

Journal activities are usually specific to online courses just like discussion boards. A journal entry is an ongoing update through which you can reflect back on what you’ve learned during the period under review, and how you’ll apply what you’ve learned in the future. Journal entries are straightforward ways for course instructors to know how you’re progressing through the course and if students are gaining knowledge in the right areas. 

Journals are different from other assignments because you can use a subjective, personal style of writing in journal entries and refer to yourself in the first person. 


Exams are a key and important way to test what a student has learned so far.

Some online course Institutions may allow students to complete their exams on their own personal computer, from the comfort of their home. Online exams are typically open-book and open-note because tutors cannot oversee a virtual exam or test. As a viable alternative, many institutions give students ‘take-home’ examinations in the form of an essay or final assignment to complete. Exam software like virtual proctors, or tools to monitor if you visit new web pages may be used by some institutions.

How Do Online Institutions Prevent Cheating?

During virtual examinations, online students can’t simply cheat their way to success by using revision materials or purchasing assignments. Online learning is not easy and online institutions adhere to the same standards of excellence as brick-and-mortar or traditional institutions. Over the years, online learning technology has developed, and virtual institutions have now perfected digital processes to prevent cheating and/or plagiarism. 

online institutions and course instructors work hard to ensure that cheating is nonexistent in an online exam. They make use of advanced plagiarism detection software, all online course submissions, examinations, and assignments are scrutinized electronically, and then subjected to additional checks by your course instructor.

Recognition of Online Qualifications

Many universities that offer online institutions are fully accredited institutes of higher learning. The type of qualification you’ll gain from pursuing an online program is clearly stated by any university or college – from bachelor to master degrees, graduate certificates, and everything in-between. Online learning can be used to gain any qualifications you need! 

Despite this, students are encouraged to research their accreditation, the nature of the online institution, and the type of qualification you’ll earn from an online learning program itself when researching online institutions

The types of qualifications an online institution is allowed to give students and the rules for accreditation can vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The country the online institution is based in; 
  • If it is a public or private institution; 
  • The institution’s official title – university, school, academy, etc.; and
  • The type of program offered by the institution – degree, certificate, qualification. 
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Online learning is used by Students to study entire degree programs, get a particular certification to take the next step in their career, or pursue a practical qualification available online.

If you intend to enroll to learn online, before signing up, get a full understanding of the type of institution you’ll be studying at, and if their qualifications are recognized in your country or by future employers.

Many online institutions and campus-based universities form a partnership to create and deliver their online programs. The online institution will benefit from the specialized knowledge and technology offered by the online course provider, while the online institution offers other validated degree courses through the physical university or college. 

Online Learning and Employment 

Getting an in-depth understanding of how your online earned qualifications are recognized in your country will enable you to plan how to prepare and you’ll talk about your online learning experience to employers!

As long as your qualifications are recognized in your field, Many employers don’t see much difference between online degrees and degrees earned on campus. Some employers prefer online qualifications because it shows that the employee has a unique skill that can help you stand out from the crowd of other applicants.

‘Real’ degrees are not only awarded by campus-based institutions. In fact, many employers now know that studying online (and part-time) requires a large amount of commitment and dedication.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do online courses actually work?

Online courses are a form of online learning that offers all the perks of attending a university or college from the comfort of your home. Online tutors and institutions need to consider the needs of less-engaged students and work to engage them. Though online courses are not generally effective as in-person classes, they are certainly better than no classes. 

Can you put online courses on your CV?

Yes. Depending on your CV layout, your online course qualifications can be added alongside the education section of your CV or you can create an entirely new section called Professional Development. This is particularly useful if you haven’t got a degree yet, or just applying for a job that’s unrelated to your degree.

Do Online Certificates Help resume?

Online certificates show your relevant, standout skill sets on your CV and provide a vivid example of what you know and what you can get done. For example, it can be beneficial for marketing professionals to highlight additional data analysis skills because these skills may even help them negotiate a higher salary.


The advancement in modern technology has made it possible for students to study entirely online while still watching lectures, participating in subject discussions in the virtual classroom, and socializing with classmates. In online courses, educational support is just as important as tutor feedback, and take great care to ensure that their students receive the same levels of support that they would receive on campus.

If you have any questions on how online courses work, let us know in the comments below

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