The purpose of this study was to describe undergraduate students' experiences and perceptions of online courses based on interviews, observations, and online focus groups. I describe (a) motivational and learner characteristics within online classes, (b) the positive and negative aspects of online courses as experienced by students, (c) what instructors can do to improve the teaching of online courses, and (d) how undergraduate students' perceptions of the online learning environment and the tools used affects the selection of their approach to learning. The sample consisted of 16 undergraduate students who had completed or were enrolled currently in an online course at one of the two universities. Students were drawn from one of two religiously affiliated universities in Northern California, primarily undergraduate universities. Students were recruited to participate in one or more of the data-collection methods; these were 11 in the interview process, 8 in the think-aloud observations, and 8 in the online focus groups: 5 in one group and 3 in the other group. Data from think-aloud observations and online focus groups were used to confirm findings from the interviews. Data analysis from this study produced five primary findings across the four research questions. The first finding is the role of communication in shaping students' perceptions and approach to learning. The second finding is that participants did not perceive the negative attributes of technology to be inherent to the technology itself but in its use and implementations. Included in this second finding is that the tools used were not as important as the quality of communication and that the value assigned by students to any tool is influenced by the way the tool is implemented. The third is that course organization is key to student learning and success. The fourth is that student' approaches to learning appeared to be shaped by both the structure of the learning environment and the nature of assessments used in the online environment. Included in this fourth finding is students' perceptions of online learning as being less academically rigorous than their experiences in face-to-face education. The fifth is that students use nonacademic resources to locate information rather than the university library. Suggestions for practice included, greater online faculty training in the use of communications technology and implementations of communication standards for online instruction. Faculty teaching online need to understand the tools of online instruction and the methods related to online course delivery. These methods include faculty participation in online discussion forums, online project-based and problem-based assessments, and the use of podcasting for instruction. Suggestions for online research methods are included: the use of e-mail interviewing; social networking to gather data; and the use of World Wide Web and Internet-based communication technologies for interviews, observations, and online focus groups.