How Does Online Learning Work?

While traditional learning takes place in a classroom with four walls, an online learning environment takes place in a virtual classroom contained in our Learning Management System, Blackboard. Blackboard Learn allows users to access course materials, activities, assignments, and to collaborate online. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is an online meeting environment that provides real-time online lectures, recordings, office hours, and group collaboration. Students can access their courses and collaborate online from anywhere and at any time through a web browser. All course content is secure must be accessed with a username and password. Visit our Blackboard Information webpage to learn more.

Visit our Blackboard Information webpage to learn more.

How Are Classes Conducted?

Each instructor will customize and design their course differently using Blackboard. The majority of courses are asynchronous, which means you decide when to enter your virtual online classroom and do your work. Other classes may require synchronous meetings that require all students to meet at the same time. Each online course will have a student orientation and syllabus, which will provide you with details about the course design, course materials, assignment expectations, and course calendar.

How Does Learning Occur?

It all depends on the course, the instructor, and you. Instructors may require daily entry into Blackboard to participate in assignments such as discussion boards and blogs, while others may only require entry two times a week. Your instructor will lay out a learning path that includes various assignments and deadlines. You will be responsible for completing assignments and meeting deadlines in order to be successful in the course. How often you enter your virtual classroom will depend on the instructors design of the course and your time management plan for completing your work. However, you can expect to enter your virtual classroom multiple times each week in order to keep up with your work. Generally, if an instructor uses real-time meetings they are limited in number and/or they offer the option to view the meetings later from a recording. However, we strongly encourage your participation because you will better connect with both your instructor and your peers in these sessions.

Is Online Learning For You?

While online learning is a great option, it may not be the right option for everyone.  Learning online will not save you time in the learning environment, it simply changes where you are learning.  You can expect to spend the same amount of time and energy in an online course as you would in a traditional face-to-face course. You will also spend the same amount of time and energy working on class assignments, research, and homework than if you were in a face-to-face course.  A general rule of thumb is that you will spend 2-3 hours on homework for every credit hour and one hour of online time for every credit hour. For a three credit course this translates to about 10-12 hours of time for each course each week – give or take.

The difference is that your time spent in your class and studying is a bit more flexible and can be fit into your schedule more easily than if you had to be in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.   However, online classes do save you time and money on travel, which is a big advantage.

Students who learn in an online setting must be self-disciplined, organized, and have good time management skills to be successful. There is also can be a large amount of reading in an online environment so having good reading skills will be a benefit.  Typing and technology skills are a plus as well.

What Equipment Do I Need?

In addition to the drive and determination, good time management skills, and good reading skills, you will need reliable access to the internet and a reliable computer. Some courses may require a web camera and headset with microphone for the synchronous meetings. Both are fairly inexpensive and can be purchased online or at an electronics retailer.
You will also need the Microsoft Office Suite of products. Specialized courses may require additional software but are usually listed within course material requirements.  As a student at UM, you are eligible for a copy of these products.  To learn more visit the Microsoft Office information page.
You can check your computer capability with Blackboard here.