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What is an Online Campus?

By Tara Barnett
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An online campus is a website or group of websites that represents a college's online course offerings and the means to complete those courses. Typically, the term online campus is used for the central website where a student can turn in work relating to courses, talk to other students, and complete other functions similar to those performed on a physical campus. Materials for classes, videos of lectures, and other information may be available in the online campus. It is also common for students to access grades, course offerings, and other administrative information through this type of website.

In many ways, online universities often attempt to recreate physically located universities virtually. The term campus, in this case, is intended to draw a comparison between the offerings of a physical university and an online university. Even though a person can typically visit an online university from any computer, using the word campus helps to solidify the notion of the university as a bounded institution rather than an amorphous group of social connections. People log in and go to the campus regularly because they go to the school, which helps develop a sense of community as well.

Functionally, an online campus is often the space in which coursework is completed and turned in. Students may download and complete assignments on their own computers, but work is typically turned in through the online university website rather than through email or other communication devices. When students must access special online materials, these are also usually located on this type of website. As such, the online campus is a central hub for all students attending the university.

Usually, certain administrative functions are fulfilled through the online campus as well. Students can often view what courses are available and sign up for those courses as well. Admissions, technical assistance, and other services may also be located on this website. The term campus is generally used for the set of functions only available to people already associated with the school, but since there is not a formal definition for this term, some universities use it differently.

While most of the functions of an online campus are academic, there are sometimes social functions on this type of website as well. Students sometimes communicate directly with one another through the campus, or they may be introduced to one another through taking the same class, even if they do not ever see each other face to face. Depending on the way the campus is organized, this type of website may provide students with the friendship and camaraderie common on physical university campuses.

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