5 min read

What is Online Learning?

What is Online Learning?

by Newcastle University

Everybody seems to be talking about online learning, but what does it actually mean? And are there any good things about studying online? Find out in our latest blog post. 

What is online learning? 

Online learning is all about getting your education over the internet, instead of the 'normal' way of being taught in a classroom or lecture theatre. 

To be taught online you may need video chat software, such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Some lectures and talks may be pre-recorded for you to watch in your own time.

To take part in online learning, you will need: 

  • A computer, laptop, mobile or tablet 
  • A stable internet connection 

Universities understand that not all students have internet or a computer of their own. If you’re enrolling in university in the coming months and don't have your own equipment, reach out to your university to ask about borrowing a laptop.

Here at Newcastle University, we offer long-term laptop loans that give students a laptop for the full academic year. 


How do online courses and degrees work? 

Just like in-classroom teaching, online courses and degrees have deadlines, course materials, exams and assessments - as well as lectures and seminars

Normally, you will be given a timetable of online lessons to log on to, or information about where to find the pre-recorded lecture or seminar.

In an email or your university's online learning space, you will be given lecture and seminar preparation, essays and more to make sure you get the most out of your online studies and to show your lecturers what you have learned.

If you're joining Newcastle University in 2020, your teaching will be a mix of online and in-person, on-campus teaching. In semester one, because of social distancing rules, all lecture materials will be delivered online, along with many tutorials, workshops and labs.

For more information, please read our blog on the 2020 student experience at Newcastle University.



What are the benefits of online learning? 

You have much more freedom with your time

Online study materials can be used whenever and recorded lectures are great for going back and listening again in your own time. This means you have more control over your studies and what your days looks like as a student

For example, if you work best at night or in the morning, online learning is good for you because you can always study at times that best suit you.

When you study online, you can make sure you are comfortable. You may even want to move around your home during the lecture to stay focused.


You can save time and money on travelling and eating out 

Money that you might usually spend on travelling to university, or on having to find food in between lectures, can now be saved or spent on, well, anything you would like!

As well as this, instead of having to get up early to get public transport, you can get more sleep and start your day at your own pace. 


You may find asking questions less scary

Some people have no problems asking questions in lectures. But, for lots of us, the thought of speaking up in front of everyone can be scary. 

It’s normal to feel nervous in a room full of people. However, video call software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, have a chat service where you can type questions during the call for your lecturer to answer. So you can just type in your question as soon as it comes into your head without having to speak.


You can add proven technical and virtual communication skills to your CV

Working from home or 'working remotely' is very common in the UK. It is likely that by the time you enter the working world, working remotely will still be common in most offices.

By the end of your first semester, you will be an expert in virtual communication and online video software which will prove a good skill to have once you graduate. Be sure to mention this in your CV, as well as how working online helped you master self-motivation and time management skills. 


Top tips to get the most out of online learning

1. Create a study space

Concentrating when you are in your personal space can be hard. Don't feel demotivated if you find the first few online lectures difficult. 

If you are able, make an area in your home or bedroom just for studying. Try to avoid relaxing in that space - such as watching Netflix or doing your skincare - this will help your brain see that space as a learning/focus space, and stop you from switching off or losing focus during online studying.

If you are living in shared accommodation and you feel comfortable doing so, why not ask your housemates if they would like to study together in the communal area? Here, you could study together and build better relationships with your new housemates - this may also help if any of you are feeling lonely.


2. Make sure you have a stable internet connection 

This isn't always an easy one, but it's an important one. If you are studying in a large building, try set up your study space as near to a router as you can. If you're living with others, why not ask that any activities that can slow the internet down, such as online video games or YouTube,  be put on pause until your lecture is over?

Small things such as taking your phone off of WiFi and making sure you don't have too many tabs or applications open, can improve the quality of your virtual seminars and lectures.


3. Prepare a study plan 

Going to lectures and having an in-person timetable can give your days, and weeks, structure. When you go to your lectures online, you may lose that feeling of structure and this can effect your well-being.

Set boundaries between your study and personal time by making a study plan. You can set targets for each day, and give yourself days off to work towards. You may choose a day of the week for each module, or even work 9.00am - 5.00pm Monday to Friday.

It's a good idea to make sure your study schedule matches up to when you best work. For example, if you like working in the morning, you may want to work 7.00am - 3.00pm everyday. Whereas those of us who need a little longer in bed, may enjoy working in the afternoons and evenings.  


4. Take regular breaks

When going to university, there are lots of natural breaks. These can be as little as walking from one lecture theatre to another, or getting a nice lunch with friends.

During your online studies, you are going to be spending a lot of time looking at a screen. We recommend taking regular breaks in the form of light exercise such as going for a walk, reading a book or whatever helps you feel calm and rested.

There is no right or wrong way to take a break, as long as it leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to learn. 


5. Find opportunities for discussion/connection with other students

Nobody finds video calls easy at first, and they are not the greatest way to meet people for the first time. But, don't let your fears stop you from making friends and taking part in discussions. 

It's likely you will be put into study groups or encouraged to go to online workshops or seminars. Use these opportunities to make friends.

This will also help if you're feeling lonely, as well as improve your learning experience and understanding of the course materials. 



Here at Newcastle University, we're going to keep revising the rules and measurements we have in place to make sure you get the best university experience, whilst keeping our students healthy and happy. Why not read our blog on what you can expect from the Newcastle University induction programme, for more information on your 2020 university experience?

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