Online and Blended Learning FAQ

What is an online class?

Online courses are a mode of delivering coursework using a web-based system to instruct students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom. These web-based courses are delivered electronically via an Internet connection rather than in the traditional face-to-face setting. The College requirement for any student to be registered for an online or hybrid course for the first time is the completion of the TRN-100: Student Xpress Courseroom Tutorial. This is a free online video tutorial available in Xpress.

What is a hybrid class?

Most hybrid or blended classes meet one day per week in a traditional face-to-face classroom and conduct the remainder of the learning online through an Internet-based platform. These courses typically require a physical on-site presence to meet certain requirements of the subject matter being offered.

What is an ICN class?

ICN classrooms are similar to traditional on-campus classrooms. They are taught from an origination site where the instructor delivers the course to students in various other ICN locations throughout the district. Students can then attend class in a classroom closer to home or work, rather than on campus. To search for a local ICN classroom, choose from any of 45 ICN classrooms located within the eight counties that comprise Northeast Iowa Community College's Region 1 district.

When are online and blended learning courses offered?

All year! Online, hybrid and ICN course offerings are scheduled within the College’s regular fall, spring and summer semesters, and they abide by the College’s regular academic calendar. You may view the academic calendar on the College's calendar of events.

How do I register for online or blended learning courses?

Registration for online, hybrid and ICN courses is completed in the same way as other college credit courses at NICC, and the same tuition and fees apply. Students may apply online, or in person at an NICC Center or either the Peosta or Calmar campuses.

What is the cost for online and blended learning courses?

Tuition for online, hybrid and ICN courses is the same as for all other college credit courses at NICC. Students are still eligible for financial aid when enrolled in online courses.

Do online and blended learning courses transfer to another college?

Yes. Credit transfers for online, hybrid and ICN courses from NICC to other colleges or universities are treated in the same manner as all other traditional on-campus courses. Transferability of any college course, regardless of the delivery method, rests with the institution to which it is being transferred. Students should contact a counselor at that institution or an NICC advisor for assistance.

How and when do I get started with my online course?

All online courses at NICC have a start and end date that coincide with the regular semester calendar. Students should log in to their course on or before the first day of class and familiarize themselves with the tools in the online classroom. Each online course includes a welcome page with links to the syllabus, schedule and other materials that will familiarize students with the content and structure of the course.

Can I go at my own pace?

Yes and no. Students will be expected to log in several times a week to participate in discussion boards or listen to lectures. Students can choose to “attend class” by simply logging into the course any time that works best for them during the day or night. However, the assignments, discussions and tests will have due dates by which they need to be completed. Students can work at their own pace within the schedule of assignments and due dates set by their instructor. Some of the coursework, such as reading assignments, essays and projects, can be done offline. Course requirements will be specified by each individual instructor and the needs of the subject matter.

How do online classes compare to on-campus classes?

The academic rigor, course objectives and goals in an online course are the same as its on-campus counterpart. The expectations are similar in online classrooms for completing lessons, assignments and tasks. However, these activities are performed from a distance and completed in electronic formats, rather than in classrooms on campus. For example, class discussions are conducted through electronic forums, lectures are either posted and read or recorded and listened to, and tests are taken and submitted electronically.

Will I ever have to come to campus for my online course?

No, not if it is a fully online course. Work can be successfully accomplished in the online environment. However, hybrid courses will require some face-to-face instruction, on-campus lab work and/or assessment.

Are online courses easier than face-to-face courses?

No. Online courses can present additional challenges that students would not normally experience in a campus classroom. These may include:

  • Technology. Students should be comfortable with computers and be prepared if Internet connections are slow, lost or not working. This is a consideration if a student plans on doing work at the last minute, and computer or connection issues arise.
  • Reading and Writing. Students should be strong readers and be prepared to do more writing. There is more reading in an online class to take the place of the face-to-face communication that occurs in the traditional classroom. Writing on discussion boards takes the place of the verbal discussion in the traditional classroom, and students and instructors communicate mostly through written communication.

  • Motivation. Students should be self-motivated. The flexible structure of an online course means students will have to organize their time wisely and take responsibility for getting help, turning in assignments on time and communicating with the instructor.
What are the computer requirements for an online course?

Students will need access to a computer with an Internet connection and a word processor, preferably Microsoft Word. It is highly recommended that students have two or more web browsers installed on their computer. Commonly used web browsers include Internet Explorer, Mozilla/Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. Other recommended software includes Windows Media Player 11, Adobe Acrobat® Reader 9, Flash Player 10 and Java 6 or higher. To properly use all features of Xpress, students will be required to allow pop-ups and may need to enable cookies. An informational chart entitled Computer Technology Required for Success in Online and Hybrid Courses is available in the College catalog.

Where do I get books for my online, ICN or Hybrid class?

Students may purchase books online or at the campus bookstore. Every instructor will have specific textbook requirements for each course. The exact materials and texts required for the course will be indicated on the course syllabus, which is posted in the online classroom. The bookstore can also tell students what textbook the instructor is using for the course. If an access code for additional online materials is required, be sure to understand how to register and use the code.

Will my instructor be in my ICN classroom?

ICN instructors conduct class from one ICN classroom known as the origination site. If a student is attending an ICN class at the origination site, the instructor will be physically present in that student’s classroom. If a student’s ICN classroom is a receiving site, then the students will see the instructor as well as any other receiving site classrooms on the TV screen in the front of the room. Occasionally some instructors will change origination sites during the semester.

What if the course I want is not offered in an ICN location near me?

There are 45 ICN sites in the region NICC serves. If the course you want is not offered at your chosen location, check the ICN Map to find the next nearest location for that particular course. If you need help, contact the Distance Learning Office.

How is testing done in an ICN classroom?

Instructors will give students specific instructions regarding testing for the class. If students test during scheduled class time, there is generally a person at the ICN site to monitor the test session and to send the tests to the instructor's location. Some ICN instructors use online testing for exams and assessments.

What’s the difference between a hybrid and an online course?

Hybrid can be defined as the offspring of two different teaching formats. It is the combination of face-to-face classroom instruction and online instruction. The advantage is that students get the interactive learning experience of a conventional classroom with their instructor and peers blended with the more flexible, technological structure of an online course. Students interested in having both the immediacy of real-time response and the independence of an electronic learning environment should consider hybrid course offerings.

How much computer knowledge will I need for a hybrid course?

Because class instruction is done online through Xpress, students will need the same computer system and skills as for any online course. Any questions or issues students encounter while in the online environment can be addressed with the instructor and classmates during the scheduled class time when on campus.

How often will I have to come to campus for my hybrid course?

Most hybrid courses meet one day a week in the classroom; some will meet less often. This is determined by the instructor and based on the needs of the subject matter. Because hybrid courses conduct the majority of the class instruction online (51 percent or more), time in the classroom is substantially reduced from that of a traditional face-to-face course on campus.