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What is an Online Course? – A Helpful Guide

What is an Online Course
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

What is an Online Course?

An online course is a class that you can take without having to physically go to school

Depending on the type of online course you take, there are many ways to access an online course. There is also a multitude of subjects and lessons that you can choose from.

Online courses have grown very popular in recent years because they’re easily accessible. They’re a great way to take further education for students who have busy work schedules.

Accessing courses online are also helpful for students who are physically handicapped. It breaks down the barrier of having to travel far and out of their comfort zones.

Students who are confined to their homes because of family obligations, like parenting, also benefit from online courses. They can safely keep an eye on their kids while learning from home.

Whichever way you put it, online courses are a godsend to many. 

Criteria for a Good Online Course

What is an Online Course_Criteria for a Good Online Course

But with the many types of online courses available today, how can you gauge whether or not something is good enough? Make sure you check these criteria:

Relevant and Helpful Content

Is the subject something that you’re interested in? And will it provide information that you can use later on? Choosing a relevant and helpful topic is important to keep you invested in an online course.

Make sure that choose an online course that can give valuable and up-to-date content

A topic like digital marketing is susceptible to many new updates. So if your online course contains outdated information, then you wouldn’t be learning anything that can help you market your products better online.

Plus, it’s also important to check who authored the online course you’re taking. 

It’s best to go for online courses that were created by experts in their specific fields and industries. That way, you know that you’re learning the right stuff.

Additional Resources

Of course, you wouldn’t be expected to instantly learn something just by reading it on paper (or on a web browser, in this case). So any additional resources that come with the online course are important as well.

Materials like video tutorials, interactive eBooks, and study guides are a great help to students’ learning. They make the information much easier to digest and understand. This is especially important for difficult topics like mathematics and science.

Some students are more visual learners compared to others so the more visual resources an online course has, the better. 

Other students learn better with charts and outlines. Supplemental materials like summaries, PowerPoints, and check-up quizzes will be beneficial for them instead.

Appropriate Pacing

Receiving big chunks of information at once can be extremely overwhelming. That’s why you should make sure that your online course has appropriate pacing.

If you’re the type of student who prefers information in small rations, then choose an online course that you can take at your own pace. That way, you can study comfortably, as well as work around your schedule.

But if you’re someone who learns better when given a complete set of information from the start, then choose an online course that does so. This is also good for those who have more time on their hands since they won’t have to squeeze in time from their outside schedules.

Also, more difficult topics should be broken down into smaller segments at first. This is to ensure that all the small details are clarified and discussed.

Anything too rushed will not help the students at all since they’ll end up not remembering any of the information.

Communication Methods

When students encounter a difficult topic or section, their first instinct would be to ask help from the instructor. Because of this, communication methods are important for conducting online courses.

Typically, teachers would give students their e-mail address for any questions or clarifications. But with the many innovations of today’s online learning sites and web pages, there are other ways to communicate.

Some online course platforms have their discussion forums right on the site. Students can post their questions and other students, as well as instructors, can respond.

Then some online course platforms have their own chat apps. Students and teachers can freely talk to each other in real-time for better communication.

You should choose an online course platform with the communication method that you’re most comfortable with. It’ll help ease your learning journey by a whole lot. 

Easy-to-Use Interface

Your online course platform should be easy for you to navigate. It really won’t matter that you have great resources if you’ll end up having a hard time accessing them anyway.

An easy-to-use interface makes learning online courses faster for students. They won’t have to worry about where to go or what to click on.

If they need a particular reading for their course, they should be able to easily find it on the site. All the modules should also be organized and numbered so that the students know their immediate next steps.


Some online courses allow the students to customize what lessons and modules they want to take. That way, your course is unique to your own interests and career path.

Good customization options are definitely something to look out for when choosing an online course since it allows for more focused studying.

Common Types of Online Courses

What is an Online Course_Common Types of Online Courses

Now that you know what makes a good online course, let’s discuss what the most common types of online courses are. 

E-Learning Courses

This type, of course, is found primarily on digital course platforms. These are platforms that you can subscribe to for access to online courses.

Course platforms like Teachable and Thinkific are examples of sites with a wide range of course topics. You can enroll in different online courses for a set monthly price. But upon signing up, you can also access the free trial first to feel it out.

READ: Teachable Review – Unlimited Course Creation Features, Thinkific Review – Free Course Creation Features

Other websites also offer free online courses on other topics. 

For example, you might already know about Khan Academy which is famous for its simplified math tutorials and techniques. And it isn’t only limited to math, but all other common school subjects as well. 

Then there are also sites that offer online courses on things like programming and coding. 

If you’ve ever needed help with creating HTML codes, chances are you’ve stumbled upon w3schools.com while googling. It’s a website that teaches its audience how to use HTML and CSS codes.

University Courses

Many colleges and universities these days already offer online classes for Master’s degrees and vocational courses. Each university course is approved and designed by the school administration and then released for online use.

You can take the courses for a set amount of time and discuss the pace with your instructors. Some courses require the student to still come to school for a minimum amount of days. Other courses can be done completely online, depending on the subject of the course.

Top universities like Harvard, UCLA, and Berkeley are known for the digital courses that anyone in the world can now take. That’s the beauty of having them online.

Those who have packed work schedules but still want to pursue their studies can choose to enroll in this type of course. It’s the perfect way to stay in school while still making a living.

Company Training Courses

Big companies and conglomerates have learned the efficiency of training their new employees via digital courses. It lessens transportation costs and speeds up the training process.

Company training is especially important for delicate fields such as construction, manufacturing, and food production. Employees must know about the safety precautions that they should take at work. 

Instead of having other team members sacrifice a portion of their workday to train someone new, the digital course can do that instead. And it can do it even before the new hire comes into work!

Most companies make their employees finish a set of courses before letting them come into their first day of work. That way, they’re more familiar with what they’re about to deal with already. 

FAQs on Online Courses

What is an Online Course_FAQs on Online Courses

Below, we answer the most frequently asked questions on online courses and classes.

1. What is Distance Learning?

This is sometimes called Hybrid Learning because it’s a mix of in-person classes and online courses. If the course is scheduled for five days a week, more than half of it will be done online.

For example, students will learn the course online from Mondays to Thursdays and then meet with the teacher in person on Fridays. In other cases, especially for bigger classes, in-person learning can be done once a month. 

Most, if not all, of the time, learning and discussions will be done online. And then the conducting of assessments and submission of assignments is done in person.

2. What is the difference between Synchronous and Asynchronous classes?

Synchronous Classes

A synchronous class is when all students and the instructor are present to communicate with each other, whether online or in-person. 

For online courses, synchronous classes usually involve a video call or live stream from the teacher. He/she will discuss the lesson and then the students can immediately ask questions after. 

Synchronous classes are effective for complex online courses that may be hard to grasp by just studying on your own. Having a set time to ask your teacher some questions greatly helps the pace at which you understand the lesson.

Asynchronous Classes

In contrast, an asynchronous class is when all the course materials are pre-made and pre-recorded. The teacher and students do not need to meet up with each other.

Usually, the online course resources are delivered via email or posted on a learning platform. From there, the students can access the lessons and modules at their own pace

Asynchronous classes are great for those who have their own learning process and prefer to self-study. They’re also perfect if you have a full-time job and have to work around your schedule to find time to study.

3. Where can I access Online Courses?

You can access online courses by subscribing to course platforms. One that we particularly love is Kajabi since it’s an all-in-one online course platform that’s perfect for both learners and teachers.

Choosing a good online course platform is vital to how well you’ll learn your online course. 

The best part is that many online course platforms are already compatible with your mobile device. That way, your learning isn’t restricted to just your computer or laptop. You can get an education virtually anywhere through your phone!


What is an Online Course_Conclusion

Now that we’ve answered the question of what is an online course, we hope that it’s enlightened you to try out a digital course. 

One of the nice things about digital courses is that there’s always room for more growth. Once you’re done with one course, you can immediately move on to the next one.

You’ll be free to choose whatever next lesson you want to take. It also helps that you can study the courses remotely so you can go through them at your own pace.

Unlike typical in-person classes that have endless pre-enrollment requirements, with a digital course, all you need is to sign up with your e-mail address and you’ll be good to go. It’s the one thing you need.

And if you’re looking for a place to start, then try going through our Best Online Course Platforms article to find one that will suit you.

About the author


Jack has worked on the video production, audio mastery, and physical coursework for over one-hundred popular online courses to date. He’s here to share his experiences with you, as well as show you what tools are worth your time, how to spot those that aren’t worth a penny, and above all else, how to keep yourself informed about how to navigate online course creation efficiently and effectively.