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Chapter VII: How Does Online Learning Work? What Does an Online Education Look Like?

It’s going to be difficult to truly know what online learning is like until you take a course. However, there are a few simple ways to introduce the concept. To help you gain some familiarity with the process, we’ve provided a simple introduction in this chapter.

Online Learning at Linfield College

Where it Begins: The Linfield Blackboard Page

Illustration 1 depicts “My Linfield Blackboard Page” for a student. Blackboard is a popular, widely used learning management system that Linfield College and many other institutions use to deliver online educational content. The courses are Transition to Professional Practice, Creative Development Studio, Blackboard Student Orientation, Drug Use in the U.S., and Nutrition.

BBLearn Login

Illustration 1. My Linfield Blackboard Page With Course List

Illustration 2 shows the Blackboard Student Orientation online classroom. Take note of the navigation menu on the left side of the page; Finding Your Way, Learning Online, Getting Organized, Communicating, Collaborating, Taking Tests, Assignments and Grades. These items will guide you through a self-paced tutorial on the path for your success as an online learner at Linfield College.

BBLearn Screen 

Illustration 2. Blackboard Student Orientation

Illustration 3 shows the Information screen that appears after selecting NURS 308, Transition to Professional Practice. In this example, the Information screen gives you an overview of the course. Notice how the instructor has organized the course to provide you with more information at your fingertips; Syllabus, Course Schedule and Due Dates, Faculty Bio, Managing your Personal Home Page, and Linfield Resources. Each instructor will organize the information to suit the aims of the course. While all course pages in Blackboard will have similarities in appearance, each instructor will customize the online classroom.

 BBLearn Screen

Illustration 3. Information. NURS 308. Transition to Professional Practice

Illustration 4 shows a content page in the course. In this example, take note of the Learning Objectives and Learning Activities and Assigned Reading for that particular module. 

BBLearn Screen 

Illustration 4. Content Item

Illustration 5 depicts a portion of the Discussion Board showing how the instructor has mapped out discussion topics for the semester. As in the previous illustration, instructors will organize the discussion boards in different ways. Some topics will be graded and have points assigned to them.

 BBLearn Screen  

Illustration 5. Discussion Board

Illustration 6 shows the landing page that a student comes to after selecting the course, Creative Development Studio.  Note links to the Course Syllabus and Schedule, and contact information for the instructor are clearly visible.

BBLearn Screen 

Illustration 6. Course Landing Page

Illustration 7 shows the creative work submitted by a student in the course, Creative Development Studio.

Student projects are shared in this online class providing student-to-student and instructor-to-student critique of the development of the students’ work.

Picasa Sample

Illustration 7. Creative Development Studio Creative Work by Danielle Bertrand

Blackboard allows for a clear, intuitive and user‐friendly approach to managing and organizing a great deal of information. While it may take some getting used to, most online learners – from California to New York, from the Pacific Northwest to Pennsylvania, to Azerbaijan ‐ find it easy to navigate.

What Surprised Kathy Attaway?

There was one thing about online education that surprised Kathy who was working full‐time as an RN and returned to school to complete her RN to BSN degree at Linfield.  “I really believed online learning would be getting an assignment, completing it on my own and then uploading it to some site.

I had no idea that there would be so much interaction, not only with the professors, but with my fellow students,” she said.  “I think the most useful part of online learning as opposed to a classroom is that you get a chance to interact with everyone.”

Fred Van Drimmelen: “You get out of the process what you put into it.”

Fred is a recent Linfield graduate who earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Management.  He works for Cisco Systems. “The phrase that you get out of the process what you put into the process is very true in the online learning community.  If you go into it wanting to absorb and learn, it is a very effective toolset,” he said. Fred travels regularly for work. “The satisfaction of being able to do an online course whether I’m in Oregon, in Ireland, in Israel, or in Arizona, is very helpful to the learning process to accommodate my schedule,” he said.  One of Fred’s favorite quotes from Albert Einstein applies to his approach to life and learning, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Albert Einstein

It’s Still College, Only Different

Janet PetersonOn one level, learning online is similar to face‐to‐face learning. You have reading assignments to complete, lectures to read or listen to, papers to write, and material to learn. “But it is different,” said Professor Janet Peterson, who teaches in Linfield’s Health, Human Performance, and Athletics Department. “There are opportunities for learning in face‐to‐face and online environments. But some people cannot learn online and others find that online is the best option for them.” Professor Peterson has been teaching online for a number of years and was open to the concept from the beginning. Her openness to alternative methods may have come from her own family. “Years and years ago, my mother got her college degree from a correspondence school, and I was somewhat dismissive about that path. Then I realized that she was able to secure the same kinds of jobs as other people. Later, in graduate school, I came to believe that there are many different teaching formats that are effective beyond the traditional ones.”

Oznur Root: Online Learner

Oznur Root lives in Azerbaijan.  In addition to working full time, she is a wife and the mother of two children.  The family likes to travel when school is not in session.  “Online classes provide flexible studying hours that allow me to continue with my work, family, and travels, says Oznur Root, Linfield  Bachelor's degree in Accounting student. Regardless where I am around the world, as long as I am connected to the internet, I am able to be in the classes, anywhere, anytime. The flexibility aspect of online classes is of great value to me,” she continued.

“Through internet search I found what I was looking for in a school of choice at Linfield, with tremendous amounts of professional help. Linfield pays close attention to its students while having appropriate accreditation to provide academic classes that are competitive,” said Oznur.  

Ray Schroeder: Online Educator

Ray Schroeder is Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and Director of the UPCEA Center for Online Leadership and Strategy. Ray thinks a great deal about and communicates frequently on topics regarding online learning.

Ray wrote recently in his “Monday Briefing” about happiness as it relates to online students’ learning experiences. Citing a poll by Gallup/Purdue University conducted with 30,000 college graduates, they found that happiness had a lot to do with the engagement in learning, college debt incurred, perceived quality of teaching and depth of learning.  “In sum it seems the path to online learning happiness is paved with lower costs, greater student engagement, affective approaches, and quality teaching,” Schroeder wrote. Examples of affective approaches to learning include helping learners identify achievable aims and working toward autonomous learning.  He encourages faculty to remember these as they design and deliver courses and curricula online.

A Key Distinction: Term-based and Self-paced Education

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of degree and certificate programs: term‐based and self‐paced. A term-based program is what it sounds like – there’s a time limit that ranges from five to fifteen weeks from the beginning of a course to completion. A self‐paced program is wide‐open, with loosely defined time frames for learners to complete their coursework. At Linfield College, we offer term‐based classes.

Online classes at Linfield College are term‐based.


Chapter VIII: Resources to Help You Succeed

Five Avenues of Support

Strong, supportive institutions have excellent technical, research, faculty, tutoring, and advising support systems. These avenues of support are designed to help you succeed as an online learner. When you are considering the school where you will enroll, it’s a good idea to ask about these resources. Let’s explore these a little further.

What About Technical Support?

It’s easy to be amazed by the growth of millions of people going to college online. It’s less easy to create the institutional capacity to consistently and effectively deliver those courses and materials online. Both students and faculty must be sufficiently trained, equipped and supported so that the learning – not the technology – is at the forefront. Students (and faculty) must know that in the event of a problem, they can find solutions quickly and easily. Faculty members have to learn to build classes in new ways. The fact that “new ways” keeps evolving and changing complicates matters. The best schools are staying current with new developments in order to enhance the learning experience.

At Linfield College, technical support is available to online students as they need it; the school has continued to increase bandwidth, adopted more advanced versions of Blackboard (BBLearn) which allow online class participation through mobile devices as well as laptop and desktop computers.

Brett Hardee is the Division of Continuing Education’s head of Technology and Blackboard Administration. He said that the most frequent issues with newer students are user‐name and password problems. After that, issues related to browsers cause problems. Plug‐ins are add‐on programs or applications that are needed to connect browsers properly to BlackBoard, such as Java and a pdf reader. Several methods are available to help learners, from talking them through the necessary steps over the phone to using a computer program to connect to the student’s computer and installing these applications remotely.

Online Tutorials

Colleges provide different ways for students to become familiar with the online classrooms before the course is underway.

At Linfield College, learners have the option to view an online tutorial in BlackBoard Learn or to attend a free online demonstration course, either face-to-face, or virtually through a simulcast. The online demonstration classes are offered before the start of each semester, in order to help students become familiar with the learning management system..  During the online demonstration course, classes for which you have registered will be available for viewing. Strategies for successful online learning will also be discussed. Faculty have workshops and consultants to help them stay current with existing and developing technologies.

Research Support

StudyingIn a connected world, research librarians must be aware of the ever-expanding abundance of information and a growing array of tools to reach learners and help them become information literate. The proliferation of valuable online content has created a diverse and rich world to explore. In most ways, this is a good thing. “One of the biggest challenges facing librarians now,” said Beth West, Linfield College’s Teaching and Online Learning Librarian, “is to help our learners evaluate the material they find online to insure it is the best possible information for their research.” West would like online students to know that even though they don’t come to campus, they still have access to a wealth of library resources and to a librarian dedicated to meeting the particular needs of online students.

Just a few links bring forth an astounding amount of useful information.

Linfield Libraries Search  Find books, articles, media & more
Everything scope includes access to materials via Linfield and  36 other academic libraries regionally.  Additionally, the WorldCat scope finds books & media worldwide

EbscoHost Journal articles in academic disciplines

Lexis‐Nexis Newspaper articles and legal resources

CINAHL Articles in nursing and allied health fields

Articles and Library Databases Complete list by subject 

Many courses taught through Linfield College’s Division of Continuing Education (DCE) have a Library Class Page which provides a comprehensive look at how a person might begin to use library and online resources to conduct research for a given course. These pages include guidance on how to use the library’s resources to find and acquire the information you need, and how to evaluate and use that information. There is a world of information literally at your fingertips, and a librarian is there to help you learn to navigate through it.

Faculty help students succeed

StudentsFaculty responsiveness is a key benchmark in evaluating a college. Instructors who are responsive provide a preview of the course syllabus or outline of topics to be covered, before the term begins so that adult learners may anticipate what the online coursework will require of them. During the course they will keep in touch by being readily available for interaction. Melissa Jones, Nursing faculty and RN to BSN Coordinator said, "It is essential to maintain regular contact with students so that they don't feel isolated in the online learning environment.”

“Adult learners enrolled in online classes need to know that the faculty will respond to their questions in a timely manner, will maintain a presence in the online classroom, and will be there if they experience challenges with the online learning experience,” she continued.

Academic Tutoring Support

Online tutoring enhances your academic experience by providing trained tutors who are prepared to help you. Linfield belongs to the Western eTutoring Consortium, a large group of colleges, each providing experienced academic tutors who work with students online to help you improve your performance in your courses.  The services include the Online Writing Lab, Live Tutoring through eChat, and Offline eQuestions where you can leave a question and an experienced tutor will respond.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points: Academic Advising

Moral support – from friends, life‐partners, fellow students, and especially, from academic advisors – plays a big role in the life of a successful adult learner. One purpose of academic advising is to help students develop educational plans that will be compatible with career. Another is to encourage the intellectual growth of learners and serve as rich resources of information. Still another, and perhaps the most important is this: A great academic advisor can save a student enormous amounts of time and money by being a wise and knowledgeable guide through the thickets of higher education and personal aspiration.

Kathy Attaway found her advisor to be a valuable resource in navigating the RN to BSN degree program.

“Having all of my past experience and education count was so much easier than I expected,” she said.  “Really, it was all done for me.  I was contacted immediately and given plenty of information and just walked through the whole process,” she continued.

Academic advising at Linfield is mission driven, designed to promote intellectual growth, critical thinking, thoughtful dialogue, and lifelong learning. Academic advisors mentor students, support them as unique individuals, and use their specialized knowledge to benefit students.

We recently sat down with Joanne Swenson and Janielle Losaw who are experienced with advising adult learners at Linfield to discuss some of the common concerns prospective students have about going back to school and how advisors will work with you to overcome any challenges you feel you might face, in this short video, Academic Advisors: Your Advocate through Graduation. We encourage you to take a look.


Chapter IX: How Much?

Value Defined

When you evaluate the cost of paying for college tuition, it’s important to keep in mind what you are paying for. If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or certificate with academic credits, you are paying for accreditation (and all that entails), reputation, distinguished faculty, support services (like research libraries), and current technologies. You are paying for all that goes into the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge in both traditional and non‐traditional ways.

Cost Considerations

The cost of your education, as in tuition and fees, should be easy to find on the school’s website and when communicating with admission and financial aid resource people. If you have difficulty locating this information after a reasonable attempt to obtain it, this is a reason to be cautious about enrolling in that school.

By any measure, the Linfield College online adult degree program is affordable. Because Linfield online tuition charges are determined by the number of credits taken each semester, students are charged tuition on a pay‐as‐you‐go basis. Students may also elect to pay their tuition in installments during the semester. Tuition charges are competitive with those charged by public higher education institutions, and, in many cases, below other private institutions. The Linfield program has been approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for eligible veterans pursuing a degree. 

Financial Aid

Through the Financial Aid Office at Linfield, adult learners can apply for, and become acquainted with  grants, and federal and private loan programs and scholarships. Federal Pell Grants, Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loans, the G.I. Bill, the Oregon Opportunity Grant and various private scholarships are some of the financial vehicles that help adult learners fund their education. 

Sandra Tello is a Linfield Financial Aid Counselor. “A common misconception among some adult learners has to do with scholarships. You don’t need to be right out of high school to apply for scholarships,” she said.

Sandra recommends the Path to Scholarships® workshops and webinars offered by Linfield, to learn how to successfully apply for scholarships.  Sandra covers some of the most frequently asked questions that adult learners have in a short video, Help Financing Your Education.

For more information, the Financial Aid web page is a good resource about financial aid that is available to eligible degree and certificate-seeking adult learners in Linfield’s online degree and certificate programs.

Linfield College Online Costs

An up‐to‐date schedule of Linfield online degree and certificate tuition and fees  is available.

Compare and Contrast

One way to establish that you are receiving good value is to compare the tuition costs of one school and another.

Textbooks, online and lab fees, travel costs, etc. are not included in the tuition. The fees are listed in the class schedule. Prices to purchase or to rent textbooks  (both “new” and “used”) and e-textbooks appear in the Linfield College online bookstore.


Chapter X: Lifelong Learning

When we asked our graduate, MaryHelen Clausing, who was kind enough to offer her insights and experiences for this e‐book, if she had something she might want to say to an audience of potential online learners, she said:

“I really think, in nutshell, it’s a fabulous way for an adult to go back to school. And that it’s a fabulous feeling as an adult. Something you think is so out of reach – you get caught up in your job, you think, ‘I wish I would have, or I could have but I can’t now, there’s no way.’ The thing is, you can. And it’s hard. But it’s so, so great.”

We live in extraordinary times. The world needs thinkers and problem solvers and go‐getters and self‐ learners and lifelong learners. The world needs you. Thank you for reading this e‐book. We leave you with a great line from a great English writer:

It’s never too late to be what you might have been.
- George Eliot