What is Online Education?

Y2K has opened up the ocean of multiple possibilities. One of those is education without boundaries. Never before it made so much sense to most of us as it is now due to the Global Crisis – COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a defining moment for online learning. This Pandemic has forced every organization to think out of the box and tap on to this ocean of possibilities to go on. With residential campuses closed, many institutions have had to rapidly pivot to offer their courses/education remotely without knowing the basics of Distance Learning. It is not that Online Education or e-Learning is new, however, the global realization of these multiple possibilities that internet can offer in this pandemic is new. With new excitement comes new confusions, and it is important to get into right understanding before jumping into the ocean of multiple possibilities and uncertainties. Here is my humble attempt to bring forth basic understanding of the Online Education for those who are new to this new normal.

What is Online Education?

There are so many definitions of Online Education on online platforms and it will continue to evolve. Some say Online education is a form of education where students use their home computers through the internet. Here is the other one, “Online education is electronically supported learning that relies on the Internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials.” Dr. Tony Bates on Online Learning and Distance Education Resources forum defines Online Education as “any form of learning conducted partly or wholly over the Internet”. This is the most common understanding of an Online Education.

Having said that, what we are experiencing in the field of education during this COVID-19 pandemic is Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), and we must make adistinction between deliberately designed online learning and the emergency measures used to move all instruction online.

Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), is a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances. It involves the use of fully remote teaching solutions for instruction or education that would otherwise be delivered face-to-face or as blended or hybrid courses and that will return to that format once the crisis or emergency has abated.

However, looking at the present situation and overuse of the term it is important for us to redefine what online education is. Especially now, because online education as we know it is not going to be successful unless we create a robust andragogical learner-centric environment that focuses on opportunities for engagement, interaction, and includes strong connections to the learning. It is surely not taking residential school setup and dumping it on an online platform, it’s much more than that. 

I like the way Dr. Jennifer Mathes, Chief Executive Officer of Online Learning Consortium defines Online Learning,

Online learning uses the internet as a delivery modality to offer thoughtfully designed, quality, student-focused learning experiences, built on proven best practices that create effective interactions between learners, peers, instructors, and content.

There are many things to write in regard to Online Education, its design and philosophy, its evaluation matrix, so on and so forth. Maybe these are for other posts. I hope this post will help you see what you are doing right now in light of the basic understanding of Online Education. This COVID-19 Pandemic may get over soon but what the new normal we have made for ourselves will be here to stay. Considering that as educators we need to pull our socks to gear towards this new normal and make it work for better teaching-learning experiences.

Happy Learning!


Bates, T. (2016, July 15). Online learning for beginners. 1. What is online learning? https://www.tonybates.ca/2016/07/15/online-learning-for-beginners-1-what-is-online-learning/

Mathes, Jennifer. “A Defining Moment for Online Learning.” OLC, 13 Apr. 2020, https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/a-defining-moment-for-online-learning/.

“The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning.” EDUCAUSE Review, https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning/

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About the Author:

Anand Deshbhratar is a Faculty member in Centre for Global Leadership Development, Bangalore and Credential Licensed Minister of MDC of South India Assemblies of God. Currently working as a capacity of e-Learning Programmes Coordinator. He was originally trained in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering and worked as a lecturer in Department of E&Tc Engineering at Institute of Technology (2009-2014). Moved to Bangalore in 2014 to pursue his higher studies in Theology. Recently, he has celebrated his decade long journey in the field of education and EduTech.

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