What Types of Reading Material are Utilized in Online College?

Virtual reality has permeated virtually every aspect of modern life. Education is no exception. Indeed, the recent marriage of Academia and Cyberspace is now complete. Its consummation has spawned a new progeny called eLearning that has eliminated spatial and time barriers to higher educational access. Known alternatively as “eLearning” or “distance learning,” it is a concept whose time has finally come and is definitely here to stay. Consequently, an ever-increasing number of accredited institutions have begun offering online degree programs.

Some Things Never Change

Despite the academic enhancements that technological advancements enable, a trio of tools remains as a timeless instructional mainstay: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Of these, reading is the most fundamental and important, as it is both the means of conveyance and comprehension of the others.

Despite its apparent immunity to technological extinction, reading has metamorphosed dramatically due to high-tech influences. Following is an overview of the same/different character of relatively novel reading formats that online colleges feature.

Types of Online College Reading Materials

Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, virtual schools feature three basic reading material formats:


Like their campus-based colleagues, online college students must procure textbooks that provide a source of substantive content relevant to course subject(s). Unlike paper predecessors, however, present-day textbooks often exist exclusively in electronic form. Rather than sifting through hundreds of pages while sustaining paper cuts and constantly losing their place, online college students simply peruse reading assignments right on their computer screens. Font sizes are fully adjustable, while integrated links allow instant “leaps” directly to any desired section(s). Modern scholars may even insert and save virtual “sticky notes” and text “highlighting” for future reference. One click of an icon sends a single paragraph or entire eTextbook straight to the pupil’s printer.

Research resources

Like their physical correlates, virtual colleges maintain voluminous quantities of reference materials. Rather than constantly lugging heavy tomes from counter to table, though, today’s online college students may simply enter pertinent search terms in their school’s virtual library to get instant results. With one click of an adjacent hyperlink, any selected item immediately displays in full-text.

In fact, virtual educational venues offer even greater research value to students. This is due to a notable absence of spatial restrictions from online databases. Moreover, students face minimal risk of research material obsolescence, as most online college libraries have real-time update capability.

Non-written “Reading” Materials

An emergent trend among online colleges is eradication of text-based educational content. In its place, video has developed into the current craze and future wave of instructional delivery. Rather than forcing them to attempt comprehension of endless streams of words on a printed page, online college professors are likely to direct their class to a Web-based video to review material required for routine assignments and/or major research projects.

First-hand Observations and Personal Conclusions

This writer recently experienced the immense advantages of innovative instructional media firsthand. The required “reading” material for the first assignment in one of my online graduate courses was a YouTube video. The clip portrayed the reenactment of an actual conference among several government officials. Students were to prepare a paper that outlined the elements of a certain dynamic of group psychology known as “groupthink” depicted in the video. Being able to observe the parties’ general demeanor, body language, facial expressions, and voice intonations added a level of depth and meaning that no written word or still image could ever adequately convey.