EdTech 521: What is online learning?

Group 1: What is online learning?

  • Define online teaching and learning.
  • Describe various models used in online teaching and learning (hybrid, blended learning, fully online, LMS, etc).
  • Choose one model associated with traditional forms of K-12 education and describe how it fits into constructs of online learning.

“Online learning leverages Internet technologies to create rich, interactive, and personalized learning experiences using a vast array of technology tools …” (Rice, 2012 p. 2). It uses technology to create an engaging learning environment personalized for students that encompasses the facilitation of interaction and communication, skill knowledge and project development, and promotion of the acquisition of 21st century skills (Rice, 2012).

Online Learning

Online learning removes the traditional boundaries of time and location to offer students and teachers the flexibility not often found in other academic situations. Both the students and teachers are not required to be in a physical classroom and have the opportunity, depending on the program, to set their own pace and choose the most convenient time and place to study.

Classes designated as online are delivered to students via the Internet and require that students have access to an adequately equipped desktop computer or laptop. DSL or higher internet connectivity is preferred and is required in several programs. Online classes or programs can be supplemental or full-time or some continuum in-between (Rice, 2012).

A certain level of learner-autonomy is necessary for successful online learning. According to Rice, “Online environments can encourage learners to take initiative in their own learning by seeking out information and building connections” (p.30). Other critical components of online learning are active participation, collaboration, and authentic assessment (Rice, 2012).

Online Teaching

Online teaching can vary dramatically based on the environment and the type of online learning that exists. According to Kerry Rice, “Research tells us that online teachers are just as qualified to teach as those in traditional brick-and-mortar schools …” (p.10). Most online teachers are not just state certified but many hold higher degrees. Online teachers need to understand and feel comfortable with technology in general. Online teachers need to be proficient in their school’s learning management system (LMS) and with the tools used to gather and organize data. It is also helpful if teachers have experience as online learners, so they more directly understand this learning environment and can anticipate questions and problems their students may have. Online teachers aren’t facilitating students’ learning face-to-face. It is important that online teachers be able to explain tough concepts and answer questions over the phone, through online tools, or via a one-on-one web-conferencing session—and to know which approach will work best for which students. Online teachers have to be able to change their plans when the unexpected occurs, and they must demonstrate extra resourcefulness and competencies in adjusting instructional methods and content to personalize student learning.

Models of Online Learning

There are a variety of different forms of online learning from full-time online schools, where students do everything entirely in a virtual environment, to brick and mortar schools offering online classes in addition to traditional classes, or a combination of blended learning and hybrid environments that can be viewed along a continuum (Rice, 2012).

Hybrid or Blended Learning

Blended learning programs combine online learning with classroom instruction. Course instruction is provided to students through a variety of online delivery methods as well as in the classroom with other students and the instructor. The content is learned through multiple interactions with both peers and the instructor. The amount of time that students are required to be in a physical classroom varies, as does the amount of institutional involvement (Rice, 2012). Blended learning can be a good transition for students who are less autonomous or if they are unsure if they are ready for a fully online course.


Fendler, R. J., Ruff, C., & Shrikhande, M. (2011). Online Versus In-class Teaching: Learning Levels Explain Student Performance. Journal of Financial Education, 45-63.

Rice, K. (2012).  Making the move to K-12 online teaching.  Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson.

Twigg, C. A. (2003). Models for online learning. Educause review, 28-38.








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