What is Online Learning?

Online learning provides meaningful learning opportunities using a wide variety of teaching modalities. In today’s society learning takes place anytime, anywhere.

Online learning has evolved into a varied and rich landscape of approaches, and the pedagogical models that support online learning are continually changing and evolving.

Some of the terminology used by institutions in the Association of American Universities to describe their online learning initiatives include:

  • Online learning/online education/online programs
  • Distance learning/distance education
  • Hybrid learning/hybrid courses
  • Blended
  • E-Courses
  • E-learning
  • Web courses
  • Distributed course delivery
  • Independent learning

Continuum of Online Learning Modalities

A continuum exists between fully online learning and web-enhanced learning environments. There are a wide variety of methods used, including synchronous and asynchronous modalities.

Hybrid and blended learning is widely adopted and provides the benefits of both online and traditional learning environments.

Technology Mediation  Terminology   Definition   
More Fully online course
  • Course that does not require the student to come to the main campus or meet face-to-face
  • May use synchronous or asynchronous technology
  Hybrid/blended course
  • Course with strong online component and significantly reduced face-to-face classroom meetings
Less Web-supported course
  • Traditional course that is supported by online materials, but whose face-to-face schedule is not altered