Distance Education Frequently Asked Questions
- Do students have to sit down at their computers at the same time every day?
- Wouldn't it be better to have real-time discussion just like in a more traditional face-to-face classroom?
- Can you describe how a typical online course is conducted?
- Can I talk to the instructor or other students in private?
- Does the lack of physical contact detract from the educational process?
- Does it matter what type of computer equipment an individual uses?
- How do you know the students are who they say they are?
- I am billed by the hour for my Internet connection. What is the typical monthly connection for a student enrolled in an online course?
- Can I complete my entire course online, or do I have to come to campus for part of it?
- How many hours per week do students devote to an online course?
- Do I have to be an expert in computers to take classes this way?
- What are online students like?
- Are online courses accredited?
- Do students pay extra for online classes?
- How do I get started in an online course?
- If I am taking an online course, when do I schedule my 'class' times?
- How do I communicate with the instructor?
- How do I ask questions?
- How do I get help?
- What are the benefits of taking online classes?
Do students have to sit down at their computers at the same time every day?
Not for most online courses. Some courses have group meetings online. This varies by course. For some courses you leave your written comments or work for others to see, and check in at a later time to pick up the responses to those messages. But, you might also have a group meeting of a few students to discuss the work that was posted. Some courses might have very little interaction online between the students. These meetings are scheduled as part of the course but have the same flexibility that is a key part of online courses.
Wouldn't it be better to have real-time discussion just like in a more traditional face-to-face classroom?
The online program is designed to take advantage of the technology's strengths, rather than to replicate a model that works well in a face-to-face traditional classroom environment. Since students are located across various geographic time zones and have various work schedules and personal obligations, it would be very difficult and inconvenient for them to dial into their class at the same time. When communication is asynchronous, students can participate when and where it is convenient for them.
In addition, there are significant cognitive benefits attributed to asynchronicity in online education. Because students have an opportunity to take their time reviewing the class archives (comments, lectures, discussions) and also take as much time as they need to compose their responses, the material and concepts are approached at an individual rate. Our students and faculty find that a level of depth and breadth can be achieved in asynchronous communication, which is more difficult to achieve with real-time" or "chat-mode" text-based communication.
Can you describe how a typical week's instruction is conducted?
As in a traditional classroom, each instructor designs his or her course a bit differently than the next person. In general terms, each instructor typically posts introductory information on the week's topic in the online classroom, which includes the assignments such as reading from the textbook, completing a case-study, taking part in an online discussion with other students in the class, or preparing a paper on the topic you are studying. The instructor often posts a short lecture or elaborates on the course material as well as provides discussion questions related to the topic. Throughout the week you work on your reading and assignments on your own, just as you would in a traditional classroom setting. You use the class discussion forums to participate in discussions with others in the class and to ask questions and receive feedback. When your assignments are due, you send them to your instructor online.
Can I talk to the instructor or other students in private?
Yes, through the instructor's email, by telephone conversation with the instructor at the college, or by visiting them during their office hours. You can contact other students through the email tool within your course site.
Does the lack of physical contact detract from the educational process?
While the lack of physical contact has its constraints, it does not necessarily have to detract from the educational process. The most obvious issue is the lack of visual cues; you can't have eye contact or see a smile or a nod. Students and faculty have to find other ways to compensate for this. They frequently use the telephone when they need to clarify issues immediately. In addition, study materials and teaching techniques have been adapted to a visual, rather than an auditory learning environment, making use of the strengths of the online medium.
In an online class, all students have an equal opportunity to participate in the discussions. Potentially discriminating factors such as race, handicap, gender and appearance disappear, and your ideas become the focus.
Does it matter what type of computer equipment an individual uses?
See the Distance Education Technical Requirements for the list of necessary hardware and software.
How do you know the students are who they say they are?
This may be a surprise, but the issue is really no different than in a traditional academic setting. For example, how does an instructor know that the student sitting in his class is the same student who registered for the course? How does faculty verify that students actually complete their own homework? These questions apply to all forms of educational delivery, and they must be taken seriously.
As in traditional programs, there are checks and balances to discourage dishonest practices. These begin with the application process where social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, places of employment, and previous college transcripts are all verified against the other. Small classes foster closer communication between faculty and students, and enable faculty to differentiate and recognize their students' writing styles and personalities.
I am billed by the hour for my Internet connection. What is the typical monthly connection for a student enrolled in an online course?
When enrolled and actively participating in a class, students should expect to use approximately 9-12 hours of online connect time per week for each 3-credit 15-week course (21-26 hours for a 6-week course). Online research may require even more time. Some of your work is conducted "offline," but email, course discussions, online tests, and research require online time.
Can I complete my entire course online, or do I have to come to campus for part of it?
Some online courses may require that you take your exams in the Testing Center in the Student Services Center on the Main Campus in Schnecksville.
- For example, ALL math courses require proctored exams.
- If an online course at LCCC requires that a student come to campus, contact your instructor IMMEDIATELY at the start of the semester if this is a problem for you. They will have alternate suggestions for students who reside outside our geographic area.
All hybrid courses require some face-to-face campus sessions. This is not optional.
How many hours per week do students devote to an online course?
Students generally spend between 9-12 hours of online connect time per week for each 3-credit 15-week course (21-26 hours for a 6-week course). Coursework includes the reading, writing, studying, and computer time required. If you are knowledgeable in the course content or read quickly, you may spend less time. If you have difficulty with that particular subject, read slowly, or English is a Second Language, you may need to spend more time than the average student.
Do I have to be an expert in computers to take classes this way?
No. However, you should know how to use your computer; how to download and upload files; how to use the simple functions of your word processor; and how to connect to the Internet. You should be comfortable with browsing and searching the Internet as well as using email, including attachments.
What are online students like?
Online students are typically the same students seen on any college campus. Students prefer online education for a variety of reasons including the technology itself, elimination of scheduling and transportation problems, and disabilities. They are generally self-motivated, organized, do not procrastinate, and do not require traditional face-to-face contact with the instructor.
Are LCCC's online courses accredited?
Yes. The online courses have the same accreditation status as our traditional courses. Your transcript will not indicate how your course was offered. The transcript will show the name of the course, when you took it, and your final grade.
Do students pay extra for online classes?
They pay the same tuition and other fees which LCCC charges all students.
How do I get started in an online course?
1. Register for an online course as you would for any other course on campus.
- If you are a new student at LCCC, contact the Admissions Office for information.
- If you are a returning student, you may register in the Registration/Student Records (also known as, Enrollment Services) Office or online.
2. Get your required books and supplies.
- The College Bookstore can help locate what you need for each course. Distance Learning textbooks and other resources are available in the bookstore on Main Campus. Distance Learning textbooks are not available at the off-campus sites.
- You may also order your books and materials through the Online LCCC Bookstore. Have your course and section information with you when you access this site.
3. To access your online classroom on the first day of the semester, go to the College's web site and log in to "myLCCC." Then click on "Connect to Online Courses" in the LaunchPad on the left side of the page.
- You can also go directly to http://my.lccc.edu.
If I am taking an online course, when do I schedule my 'class' times?
You can work on your weekly class assignments any day of the week, any hour of the day or night. Most classes will have a weekly schedule, so be careful to follow the posted schedule and meet all deadlines. You should schedule at least 2-3 times each week to log on to your online classroom to read and take part in activities. Each online session should be 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the 'class time'. Another 2 to 3 hours each week should be spent on homework. In a traditional classroom for a 3-credit class, you would spend 3 hours a week in class, and spend approximately 6-9 additional hours in study. You should plan to spend as many hours for this class. For a compressed 6-week course, expect to spend approximately 21-26 hours per week. The best part of an online class is that the hours are flexible to meet your personal schedule.
How do I communicate with the instructor?
Studies have shown there is often more personal interaction between a student and his/her instructor in online classes than in traditional classes. This communication usually takes the form of discussion postings, email messages, or sessions in a chat room. Email involves at least a 1 or 2-day delay. The college asks that all instructors respond to students within 48 hours. Other forms of communication with the instructor are occasionally needed. Your syllabus will list phone numbers, addresses or other contact information. Remember, too, that you will be communicating with other students in the class on a regular basis.
- Information for full-time faculty can be found in the Online Campus Directory.
- If you wish to leave a voicemail message for a part-time instructor (anyone not in the Directory), call the College Switchboard at 610-799-2121 or 1-800-414-3975.
- If you do not get a response from your instructor within 48 hours, contact the Distance Education Office.
How do I ask questions?
If you have a question in a traditional classroom, you would raise your hand and ask it. If the instructor does not understand it, or needs more information from you, he or she would ask for it. You do not have the immediate feedback in an online course. You must ask questions of the instructor that they can answer. For example, "I tried the quiz, but it did not work. What now?" is not a specific enough question. It will not get you the answer and the instructor will have to take additional time gathering the missing details. If you say "I clicked on the Quiz 2 link in Lesson 4, and an error message said 'you have not been granted access.' What now?", your instructor will have enough information to answer your question the first time.
The majority of the time you should send questions to your instructor via email or post your message to a discussion forum designed for that purpose. Sometimes the best way to ask a question is to telephone the instructor or visit during office hours. Some instructors will also schedule online office hours using webconferencing or the chatroom in WebStudy so that you may ask questions and get immediate feedback.
How do I get help?
The different formats of online classes require different techniques to get help from the instructor. In an online course, you must not allow yourself to become fall behind before asking for assistance. Getting stuck can be frustrating, but should not stop you. As soon as you experience problems, contact your instructor. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will become.
The following are some ways to receive help, so you can continue your learning.
- Online courses require more frequent communications between you and the instructor than in a traditional class. Send your individual questions to the instuctor or to your fellow online students in the course. Consider working in groups to make sure you have a consistent understanding of assignments and procedures.
- Read ALL the class messages. Everyone has the same types of questions and problems.
- Contact the instructor by telephone! Call the office or visit during office hours. Sometimes a problem needs a voice answer. Do not hesitate to call. Phone calls are a good way to maintain rapport between you and the instructor, especially when questions are complex enough to require a back and forth exchange.
- If the problem is technical and your instructor cannot solve the problem, first review the WebStudy Online Student Orientation. If you still have a problems, contact the Distance Education Office for assistance. Someone will usually contact you within 24 hours.
What are the benefits of taking online classes?
- The best of two class types is provided: the convenience of working at home along with the frequent communication with a classroom instructor.
- Some students need to study from home because travel costs or personal and professional obligations prohibit getting to a regular classroom class.
- Health problems or disabilities may also limit a student's ability to come to campus. Online classes may be the only delivery system available to these students.
- The time-bound student also benefits. Work schedules or travel requirements may make it impossible to attend a regularly scheduled class.
- The increased availability of computers and Internet connections in homes means more people have the technical capability.
- Students receive the same college course without having to actually attend a face-to-face class. Depending on the student, it can build confidence to take additional online courses or confidence to attend classes on campus.
- While learning the course subject matter, online students also develop important communication and technology skills, which are highly sought after in today's competitive work environment.