What Is Online Learning?
Online learning, sometimes called distance learning, refers to educational programs conducted via the internet. Online learning has become an increasingly popular choice over the years because of the flexibility it allows in terms of scheduling and location. Online students can study from any location with an internet connection, and sometimes even attend their classes on their own schedules.
Students of online programs can conduct their coursework online, including reading texts, seeking support, interacting with peers and instructors, etc. Online college and university programs make use of reading assignments, discussion groups, collaborative peer work, videos and other resources.
The Online Learning Experience at University of the People
At University of the People we offer accredited, online degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science, as well as an MBA program. Our unique programs are designed so that our students can study to their own schedules, wherever they are in the world. All you need is an internet connection – and any will do.
Learning Materials and Textbooks
All learning materials and textbooks at University of the People are Open Education Resources (OER). OER are free collections of teaching and learning materials as well as academic and research texts. University of the People courses are built using reading assignments and other OER materials carefully selected by our instructors and course developers. These revolutionary free resources are an opportunity for students to gain access to a wealth of wisdom that supports and enhances their studies at University of the People.
A 100% Online Education
University of the People uses Moodle, an online Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver our courses entirely online. While it’s not necessary to be physically present in a classroom, students at University of the People are part of a strong and lively online academic environment. Courses are led by qualified instructors who guide and support students throughout each course. Students also engage with one another through online discussion forums and peer-to-peer reviews in small classes with personal attention.
Courses are built from reading assignments and discussion forums. Video materials are also available to students, but only as extra learning material, and it is not mandatory to watch them. Our virtual labs and online internship options ensure that students at University of the People can successfully conduct their entire academic experience online, wherever they are located.
Working Together at University of the People
Online student forums and peer review groups are one of the most valuable aspects of the University of the People experience. Thanks to our strong online community, students make connections from all around the world. This is a resource for sharing information, wisdom, and support, as well as for building a vibrant, international network.
Students at University of the People participate in a system of peer assessments. Through grading and reviewing classmates’ work, students sharpen their critical skills and benefit from classmates’ assessments as well. The final grade is based on a combination of peer-graded work, instructor-graded work, graded quizzes and a final exam.
Working with Qualified Advisors, Mentors, and Instructors
All students are assigned a program advisor at the beginning of their course of study at University of the People. Advisors are there to help students succeed in their degree programs. Ready to answer questions, offer support and give advice, our program advisors are a key part of our educational system.
Students may also have a chance to work remotely with a mentor. Our mentors are members of our global University of the People community and industry-leading professionals. Mentors are there to help our students identify and achieve their professional and academic goals.
In addition, students receive one-on-one feedback and guidance from their instructors. For each course, students have an online learning journal, which is only seen and graded by instructors. These journals ensure that students have regular, personal access to their instructors and give instructors insight into each individual student’s understanding of the material and their progression in the course.
Students at University of the People have the freedom to study according to their own schedules. Our classrooms can be wherever our students want, so long as there is an internet connection. Students are provided with self-administered quizzes to help understand course material and prepare for tests. Every course assigns a weekly reading assignment and discussion assignment (to be completed in the group forum). Some weeks, students have a written assignment/activity or a programming assignment (depending on the course of study). Students communicate with their instructors through the learning journal and via email, messaging.
How Are Courses Structured at University of the People?
Each course is 9 weeks long and comprises 8 units of study (one per week). For undergraduate degree programs, students take a test in the 9th week on material covered in the course. Students should expect to dedicate about 15 to 20 hours per week to each course.
Weekly Class Structure (Undergraduate programs)
Each academic term lasts nine weeks and has eight learning units every week. The learning week starts on Thursday morning and ends the following Wednesday. The weekly study units are made available at the start of the new learning week.
All work for a specific learning unit must be completed within that learning week. Within that time frame, however, students can decide when to complete their work, and there is no specific time at which the student must be logged on to study. There are a series of tasks that students are required to complete each week. These may include:
- Learning Journals
- Discussion Forums
- Self-administered Quizzes
- Graded Quizzes
Students are expected to evaluate the work (using the UoPeople Peer Assessment guidelines) of three of their peers in the Discussion Forum, as well as three peer assignments. Peer assessments require students to offer constructive feedback on their fellow students’ work.
At the beginning of each learning week, students gain access to the new unit’s educational material and the week’s writing/programming assignment. As part of the course requirements for most units of learning, students must complete an assignment. These assignments generally use a Moodle feature called Workshop, which allows for the peer assessment that is integral to the University of the People learning model. In the week after an assignment is completed, three other students will assess your work and you will be expected to assess three other assignments. These reviews are compulsory as part of your own study requirements.
Students are encouraged to use a learning journal to document activities, record questions/problems they may encounter, reflect on the learning process, and draft answers for course assignments. Instructors may also choose to assign specific topics and/or relevant questions as a weekly learning journal entry. The learning journal must be updated on a weekly basis, because its entries will be directly assessed by instructors as a part of a student’s final grade. Unlike the written assignments, a student’s learning journal is only seen by the instructor and not the student’s peers.
Courses contain three types of quizzes – self-administered quizzes, graded quizzes, and a review quiz. These quizzes may contain multiple choice, true or false, or short answer questions. The results of the self-administered quiz will not count towards the final grade, but students are strongly recommended to complete it to ensure they have adequately understood the course. Along with the reading assignments, the results of the self-administered quiz should be used as part of an iterative learning process, to thoroughly cover and test understanding of course material.
Students should use the results of their self-administered quiz as a guide to go back and review relevant sections of reading assignments. Similarly, the review quiz does not count towards a student’s final grade, but should also be used to assist in a comprehensive review and full understanding of all course material, in preparation for the final exam. Lastly, the results of the graded quizzes do count towards the final grade. Specific instructions on the format and content of the graded quizzes are provided by each instructor.
The final exam period starts on Thursday, Week 9 of the term and ends the following Sunday. The format of the exam is similar to that of the quizzes, and may contain a combination of question types. Students will have one attempt to pass the exam, which is graded electronically. Specific instructions on preparing for and taking the final exam will be provided during week 8 (and can be found inside the week 9 learning guide). Final exams are taken without the presence of any course learning materials. If certain materials are permitted inside the exam, they will be noted in the exam’s instructions.
Graduate degree students have similar tasks to complete, including a discussion assignment, group work, and a portfolio activity. In general, these courses do not have graded quizzes or a final exam.
University of the People offers a series of great online resources to support students:
The course forum is the place in which to raise issues and questions relating to the course. It is regularly monitored by the instructors, and is a good place to meet fellow students taking the same course. While participation in the forum is not compulsory, it is highly recommended.
Students have access to the UoPeople writing center within Moodle. Staffed with qualified writing instructors, the writing center is there to help students develop and hone their writing skills. While participation in the writing center is not required, it is highly recommended. Our Online Peer Assessment Office was established to help students as they review and grade the work of their peers. Again, this resource is not mandatory, but is highly recommended and gives students access to the necessary tools for evaluating, assessing and learning from peer work.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (Program Requirements)
Students at University of the People must fulfil certain requirements to successfully pass each course, as well as to obtain their degree:
- Students must earn a minimum amount of credits. This amount varies per program but is approximately 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree, 60 credits for an associate degree, and 36 credits for a master’s degree.
- Students must earn a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.00 in all coursework completed at UoPeople.
- Students must complete all degree coursework in no more than 25 terms of active enrollment, excluding any periods of separation from the University.
- Students must complete all required proctored exams.
Full program requirements can be found in the university catalog.
As students progress towards graduation, they can make use of our degree audit tool, which tells students which requirements they have fulfilled and which requirements they have yet to fulfill. For example, the degree audit tool will say: “You have taken 3 out of 4 Elective Courses – you need to take one more elective course to graduate.” This tool can be run in the University of the People student portal.
Students can also map out their degree path by using our Progress Towards Degree checklist, to make sure that they are on the right path towards meeting all program requirements.
When students have successfully completed all of their required courses, they can apply for graduation through the student portal. The Student Services department will check that all requirements have been met. If they have been, a signed diploma will be mailed to the student’s postal address. After graduation, students are eligible to join our alumni group, which is a great resource for networking and job-searching. Students will also have continued access to our career service center after graduation.