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About Online Learning

American University offers Online Learning for individual courses in our various schools and colleges. These courses are taught by the same faculty teaching on campus and are as rigorous and fast-paced as face-to-face classes. Most online courses are offered in the summer, with a few in the fall and spring semesters.

Online learning simply means learning through remote methods outside the traditional "bricks and mortar" classroom. Teachers create virtual classrooms, offering the same high-quality learning experience and even some advantages over the traditional course.

Benefits of Online Learning

Online Learning offers a flexible and engaging class experience. You can

  • schedule your class participation and study when you want;
  • receive sustained, personalized attention from your professor and classmates;
  • reflect on coursework and discussion before adding your own comments or points;
  • juggle other projects and work while pursuing your full-time degree.

Recent Studies have shown that online learning does not sacrifice the quality of the education and that courses delivered online are as academically strong as face-to-face instruction. The following New York Times article discusses a a study which finds that " Online Learning Beats the Classroom." The study mentioned in that article produced a U.S. Dept. of Education Report called " Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies."

What to Expect When Taking Online Classes

While students may find an online class to be as enriching as a traditional class setting, they also find the time commitment can be greater. Participating in online discussions often takes longer than classroom discussions. Typing a thought can be more time consuming than saying it, and since everyone can comment on any given issue, there are typically more contributions to absorb. You should expect to:

  • Participate fully in the class. Participation is essential to determine progress as you have to log in, post comments, and complete assignments required by the instructor. However, the days and times you are online for class are entirely up to you.
  • Spend a substantial amount of time studying, between 10 to 15 hours per week.
  • Get support from faculty and technical staff.

Tips for a Successful Online Learning Experience

To gain the most from your online classes, be sure to do the following:

  • Become familiar with your technology and our online classroom before your first course starts. AU uses Blackboard 9. Visit Student Resources to get more information on technology use. Some instructors will choose to use Wimba, or other programs, for synchronous class sessions (ones that meet at a specific time).
  • Prepare for your course ahead of time: register early, read the syllabus, and order your textbooks.
  • Set aside time to study. Log in frequently to obtain class information, participate with fellow students in threaded discussions, collaborate on projects, and complete assignments on time.
  • Maintain contact with your instructor. Ask questions when you are not sure of something and if you are having technical difficulties.