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Frequently Asked Questions

What is online learning?

Online learning refers to the context within which learning takes place or the means of course delivery – for example, a Web-based course via a computer network (the internet). A number of learning approaches or styles can be supported or facilitated online: active, independent, reflective, flexible, student-directed, transferable or key skills, independent, and differentiated.

Why might someone take a course online?

Online learning is anytime anywhere education. All of our online courses take place without a physical classroom and without fixed class hours. Freed of those limitations, students have the means to overcome geographic distance and balance busy work and family schedules with their coursework.

In the past, the only educational avenue available to these students was the correspondence course. Most agree that the correspondence experience is cold and isolating, offering little contact with the instructor and none with other students. Proponents of online learning say the technological advancement of the Internet has allowed them to overcome that isolation and provide an educational experience equal in quality to that of the traditional classroom.

How do online courses differ from a correspondence school?

When you take a course from a correspondence school, you typically receive printed course materials in the mail on a regular basis. These materials generally consist of reading assignments, practice exercises, etc., and you are expected to complete them at your convenience. Once you are finished, you send your completed work back to an instructor for review. This dialog between student and instructor can be rewarding and it allows you to complete a course of study at your own pace, but it lacks the community of fellow students and faculty that you would find in a traditional classroom at a college or university.

In contrast, our online, web-based instruction techniques offer the benefits of both worlds. Online courses at Concordia are first and foremost discussion based learning experiences. As a student in one of our online courses, you have the convenience of being able to study when your schedule permits, and you are one of a group of students who are constantly in contact with each another (and with your instructor) via the online classroom. You will be required to complete weekly assignments on time, meet milestones and deadlines, and keep pace with your classmates, just as you would in a traditional on-ground course, but you can do this at night, and in your pajamas if you like!

The discussion groups for each class are there for you to work through problems with your classmates. The instructor helps guide the discussion by introducing relevant topics and maintaining a focused dialog. Building a 'community of learners' is a goal in each of our online courses at Concordia.

E-mail is also used for private correspondence with instructors and fellow students.

The opportunity to communicate with other students is perhaps the most valuable aspect of any education. With today’s online education technology, there is no reason to forfeit community just because you are unable to attend a traditional classroom-style school.

Are online courses REAL college courses?

Yes, they carry the same college credit as other college courses, and you register for an online course just as you would for any other college-credit campus course.

Best of all, online courses are fully accredited and they look the same on your transcript as other college-credit classes. And the college credits you earn can be applied to graduation requirements and to earning a degree.

Do students in online courses just read Web pages, or is there human contact?

Concordia University is committed to providing the highest quality online learning experience possible. We recognize that learning is best accomplished as part of an active learning community and all of our online courses emphasize communication among students and the instructor. Although participants don't typically meet face-to-face, they are very much a part of a tight-knit community. Many online learners argue that they get to know their professors and classmates better than they might in a traditional classroom.

Communication is facilitated by an online discussion area—a virtual bulletin board where students post their ideas and questions. The resulting conversations and debates often resemble those typically found in graduate seminars. While most activity is restricted to asynchronous forms (not requiring everyone to be online at the same time), instructors keep virtual office hours and can broadcast live multimedia (audio and video) lectures if the need/demand arises.

How do online courses compare to traditional courses in terms of grades and student comprehension?

Although there are no conclusive studies as yet comparing the two methods, preliminary evidence has suggested there is “no significant difference” between the two.

Recent research on distance learning programs that use web technologies has had positive findings. Several studies indicate that students taking distance learning courses have similar attitudes, grades and test scores as those students in traditional classrooms. For example, a three-year study of more than 2006 students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology suggests that students perceive they are learning at least as much as they would in a traditional class. Fifty-eight percent said Net learning increased the quality of their education. The same study showed no significant difference in grades.

Isn’t classroom instruction "better" than taking a class on the Web?

It depends on your learning style. Some learners find the online community as rich and stimulating as any bonds forged in a traditional classroom setting, while a few may feel isolated and 'lost in cyberspace.' Although our online courses are carefully designed to meet the needs of a diverse audience, there are some learners who do much better in a face-to-face learning environment. Most students taking online courses for the first time see that both on-ground courses and online courses educate them, but that is where the comparison ends. Trying to compare the two types of educational delivery models is difficult. You must participate in online courses weekly, and sometime daily. There is typically more small writing assignments involved in an online course because that is the only way for your "voice" to be heard in the online class. For students who are slow to raise their hand in an on-ground course, this becomes a blessing. You see the question for the current week, have a few days to read the material, digest it, write up your response, edit it until it is perfect, and then post it for your classmates to view. For those students that dread being called on in class, the online environment can be the perfect opportunity to really open up in a class! It is also harder to fall behind online. With small assignments being due every few days, you have to keep up. It is nearly impossible to put off all your readings for a month and then hurry up and read the night before the test like you can onground. Finally, any course is only as good as the instructor, whether it is online or on-ground. We strive to provide on-line instructors that are devoted educators, with real life experience and who are consumed with a passion for sharing quality content, knowledge and guidance. And of course the best part about online classes -- Logging in to the classroom in your pajamas! 

Why should I take courses online instead of in a traditional classroom?

Online instruction is an ideal way to further your education in today’s busy world. Most of our students have schedules that do not permit them to take classes in a traditional classroom. They are either employed full-time, have families, or have other commitments that make it impossible to attend regularly scheduled classes at a local college or university. Some students do not live near a school that offers a program they are interested in, and can not just pick up and move somewhere else.

Online instruction primarily offers convenience, but there are additional benefits. With our online communication tools, students keep in close contact with their peers and are able to carry on lively and instructive conversations about course topics.

Does online learning take as much time as traditional learning?

Yes, online classes are just as demanding as their face-to-face counterparts. In addition, it frequently takes more self-discipline and dedication to succeed in an online learning environment due to the absence of face-to-face interaction and mandatory physical attendance associated with classroom-based courses.

Just like a traditional class, you have to be on top of your studies. You still have to read the textbook and/or other class reading materials; you still have to follow a syllabus, hand in your research and weekly writing assignments on time, and contribute to course discussions. While you may put just as much time, if not more, into an online course, the time spent is largely at your discretion. Whether you contribute to the course discussion at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning is not nearly as important as the quality of your postings.

What are the pros and cons of online learning?

Potential Pros Potential Cons
No time spent commuting to class Lack of face-to-face interaction
No travel costs Equipment needs of students and learning providers
You can learn at your own pace More time consuming for instructors to provide individualized feedback
Often more student-to-student interaction Instructors need to learn to be effective online instructors
Instruction is centered on the learner Types and effectiveness of assessments
Learning can be fit into your busy schedule Requires new skills and responsibilities from learners

How does online learning compare to traditional learning?

Many of the same proven instructional strategies that provide a rich context for learning in a traditional classroom have online counterparts. While the form of interaction and engagement may be different, the same principles apply. In addition, many would argue that a technology mediated learning environment can provide a more rich level of learner-to-learner interaction and learner-to-instructor interaction.

Traditional Class Online Class
In a classroom at a campus Anywhere there is a computer
Reading, writing, small groups, discussion, videos, research Reading, writing, small groups, discussion, videos, research
Professor directs instruction Professor directs instruction
Regular interaction with instructor and other students Regular interaction with instructor and other students

Do I have to be a computer expert to take an online course?

If you’ve managed to find this Web page, you’ve already demonstrated nearly enough Internet knowledge to take a course online! Once you are comfortable with a handful of Blackboard tools (i.e. Assignment Dropbox, Discussion Boards, etc.) you will be poised to "hit the course running!" Most course navigation is as simple to master as browsing Yahoo!

Do I need a computer to take classes?

Yes, you need a computer that meets the minimum technology standard. For a complete list of minimum and recommended computer requirements click here.

What learning management system does Concordia use?

Concordia currently uses Blackboard with a host of supporting instructional technologies.

How can I get help if I have a computer problem while taking an online course?

If you need help while taking an online course, a “Help” button is available on every page. In addition, Concordia provides personalized assistance via the CU Helpdesk accessible online, by calling (503)493-6300 or through an email to

Can I access the course from any computer?

Yes. As long as it meets the minimum requirements you can access your course from anywhere you have access to the Internet (i.e. at home, at work, on the road, public library).

How are assignments turned in?

The methods used to submit papers, projects, and exams will vary from course to course. Each professor will decide which learning outcomes are necessary for a particular course and how those outcomes are assessed. Depending on the class, assignments will be submitted via the secure assignment dropbox within the online course management system.

As an online learning student, will I have access to the on-campus library?

Yes. Nearly all of the resources made available by the Concordia University Library to its traditional student body, including electronic databases, full-text articles, document delivery, electronic reserves and interlibrary loan services, are accessible online to all online learning students.

Do I need to buy any textbooks or other course materials?

As an online learning student, your class may require you to purchase certain course materials, such as a textbook or course-related booklets. The types of materials you will need are determined by the instructor and depend on the course. You may be required to order only one type of item or a combination of two or three. To determine what, if any, course materials are required for a given course, you may look this information up online at the bookstore.

As an online learning student, am I still eligible for financial aid?

Concordia’s Financial Aid Office does service online learning students the same as on-campus students, but you must be considered a matriculated student to qualify for financial aid. Matriculated students are those students who have gone through the admission process and have been accepted into the University. If you wish to speak to a financial aid counselor or receive a financial aid packet, you can contact the Financial Aid Office directly at (503)280-8514.