2.6 Learning Online


  • How is online learning different from in-person learning?
  • What skills will I need to develop that are specific to online learning?
  • What is “blended” learning?

What Students Say

“Learning online can be difficult if you have never experienced it before, but all it takes is an open mind and person who is ready for success. Three things that help me stay connected with my course and professors were communication, resilience and self motivation. These three things were all a part of my success studying online.

Doing the business co-op program, I didn’t know what to expect coming from a science background and was even more scared knowing the program was online. However, communicating with my professors at Fanshawe and participating in introduction activities, allowed my professors and classmates to get to know me as a person.  Building this relationship with my professors helped when I applied for a job on campus. Because they knew me, I could ask them to be a reference for me, even though we had never met.  This helped me get a job on campus, which in turn prompted me to run for and get elected to the Fanshawe Student Union Board of Directors for 2023-2024!

Being resilient through difficult time, was important. I tried approaching each class or assignment on a positive outlook by asking for assistance that I needed. An example of this was attempting to do my first math online test, that was very difficult to complete, because I wasn’t able to access the question page.  This resulted in me failing my first online test. In this moment, I felt so distraught, that I couldn’t continue doing an online course. But with the help of my academic advisor and my professor, I explained what happen and was able to re-write the test, aiming for the grade I deserve.

Self motivation was also a key area towards my success. I was attending classes online and limited in how I could interact by talking through screens. From this point of view, attending classes was not encouraging. However, if you know your goals and strategies for success you can find a routine that will work for you.  What worked for me was keeping track of all my assignments and due dates on a planner so that I was always ahead.

These three things, communication, resilience and self-motivation helped me make it through my first term as an online student.

Shadé Dias – Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College, 2023

Identifying Skills for Self-directed Learning

  • Though all college courses ask students to apply independent learning strategies, online learning requires an even higher level of self-directed learning skill.
  • Many students have experience in teacher-directed classrooms. In these classrooms, the teacher is the central figure, and the students take direction about what to learn directly from the instructor. In these environments, students might spend time taking notes on an instructor’s lecture, and might focus much of their learning time on memorizing concepts in preparation for recalling them on an exam.
  • Students have access to your professor during class time to communicate any complex problems, get help from peers, collaborate to find novel solutions and implement them for some immediate feedback. Face-to-face learning opportunities allow you to meet people from different places and be exposed to different ideas and opinions during class discussion, so you can develop your social intelligence.
  • Some classes you have may be designated asblended learning“. This may mean that you have some hours in a classroom with a professor and classmates, but you are also expected to take part in online activities outside of class time. Reviewing your course schedule will help you determine how many credit hours your class includes.
  • Online college courses are different. The instructor is no longer the central figure in the learning environment. You, the student, become the central actor in your own learning journey. As you undertake this journey, you are supported by your community of fellow students. Your instructor serves as your guide, using their knowledge and experience to direct you to learning experiences that will lead you to your learning goals.
  • This means your will have to develop your social intelligence through engaging in online discussions in writing or in person. You will need to review and refine your writing skills to communicate any problems you are having and get comfortable presenting and speaking online while  maintaining your resilience during this process.
  • COVID has changed the way we learn and do business. Job interviews are conducted online, people are working from home and doing business across the globe from behind a screen. Your online learning journey at Fanshawe will allow you to grow your communication and complex problem solving skills in a dynamic online environment, but it may be hard work.
  • It’s important that you understand the expectations to be successful in your courses. If you are not sure, check with your professor to determine what format your learning will take place.
Student sitting in front of laptop for online class
Online connections are important.

Fanshawe has designed an Online Learning Readiness Indicator survey to help you reflect on what resources it takes to be a successful online learner.  The survey asks questions to help you better understand your abilities in self-direction, your learning preference, study habits, technology skills and computer equipment.

Carefully review the written feedback.


The results of this self-assessment may help you identify some learning areas that might require additional attention for you to be successful.

Video: Online or In-Class Learning? Which is best for you?


Video: “Online or In-Class Learning? Which is best for you?” by Fanshawe College [2:43] transcript available

1.1 Identifying Skills for Self-directed Learning” from  Learning to Learn Online at Fanshawe by Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Fanshawe College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Fanshawe SOAR Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Cavanagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.