About Online Learning

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) defines distance learning as “the acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction, encompassing all technologies and other forms of learning at a distance.” The USDLA goes on to cite that research studies have been consistent in finding that the results of distance learning programs are just as effective as traditional learning, and that student attitudes are generally positive about the experience.

Once offered largely via videotape and closed circuit television, the Internet is playing an important role in increasing both the availability and popularity of distance learning programs. There are many online providers offering courses to willing participants, but not all programs come with a stamp of approval like accreditation. Although students may be able to receive a quality education, degrees without reputable accreditation may not be as appealing to grad schools or employers. More than 4.6 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2008 term, a 17 percent increase from 2007, according to a Sloan Survey of Online Learning report.

But, how does online learning work?

Online or Classroom – What’s the Real Difference?

In many ways, taking one of Pace’s online courses is no different than taking a traditional class. Online courses have the same objectives  and academic credit as their on-campus counterparts. You’ll still have an instructor, textbooks, classmates, homework assignments and exams.

Online courses also offer the same rigorous workload you would expect in a more traditional setting. You should plan to spend the same amount of time with an online class as you would any campus-based course – typically about 12-16 hours each week for a four credit course.

There are benefits to choosing an online degree program. There is flexibility to take classes day or night, and location won’t hinder your chances to earn the degree.

Online Learning at Pace

Pace online courses run on a semester basis as do most traditional classes, with a specific starting and ending date. Most courses last about 12 – 15 weeks, and each week brings a new lecture and set of assignments.

Assignments might include readings, quizzes, review of Web sites, participation in discussion boards, problems, projects or papers among other activities. Some courses will have mid-terms and final exams while others will require a project (sometimes a group project) that will take place over several weeks.

NACTEL and Pace have been working hard to create an interactive program to help enhance your career.

Keys to Success

There are a few things to consider before joining the online education revolution.

Up to Date Software

First things first… you’ll need a computer that is fairly up-to-date with current software. Be sure to check out our Technical Requirements before applying.


To participate successfully, you should have some level of proficiency in using your computer. For example, can you:

create, save and manage files (on your computer)?
install software?
send and receive email messages with file attachments?
paste text from a word processor into an email message?

If that’s all Greek to you, no worries. Just know that you’ll have to learn how to use your computer as you’re going through your courses – which can make it a little more challenging and time consuming.

Learning Style

Online learning is not for everyone. It requires a certain amount of independence and self-discipline in order to be successful. Examine your personal learning style. Are you capable of:

staying on task without direct supervision?
prioritizing your workload?
allocating 12-16 hours per class each week?
taking direction via written instructions and textbooks?
learning new computer or technology skills?


Certain classes will also require a proctor, someone to administer select exams or assignments. 


A final consideration is communication. Pace encourages communication between students and with instructors via email and discussion boards. However, some students find these online means of interaction less satisfying than face-to-face meetings.