Introduction to Online Learning

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What Is Online Learning?

At Northeastern University Online, online learning, or distance learning, refers to the use of the Internet to deliver educational solutions to students remotely. It removes the limitations of time and location to deliver education to students anywhere and at any time.

Who is the typical online learner?

The typical online learner at Northeastern University Online is a working adult who needs the flexibility to access the course at a time of day that is convenient for him or her. This type of student is learning online because his or her job, family commitments, or geographic location makes it difficult to complete a degree in a traditional face-to-face classroom.

What is important to adult online learners?

Adult learners often bring their own life experiences, professional knowledge, or previous education and training to an online learning environment. They are interested in learning experiences that are relevant or applicable to their career or self-development (Tyler-Smith, 2006), and tend to learn most when they are participating in activities that draw upon their prior knowledge and experience (Merrill, 2002).

Adult online learners have a different set of expectations than traditional students who attend school full-time. Since they are accessing the course asynchronously, they need a structured and consistent workflow that enables them to navigate each course easily and comfortably. For many, being part of a learning community enhances individual learning by fostering shared goals and helping students feel connected to one another (Palloff and Pratt, 2011).

Teaching Online

What makes teaching online different than teaching in the traditional face-to- face classroom?

The same instructional strategy that you would employ when teaching face to face also applies when planning your online course: setting the goals of the course, creating objectives, and creating relevant assignments and assessments (Ko & Rossen, 2010).

The online classroom is an asynchronous environment in which instructors are communicating with students primarily by e-mail, instant messenger, and via discussion forums. The pace of the course differs from the face-to-face classroom in that students and instructors can access the materials and participate in the course 24/7.

What qualities make for an effective online instructor?

Knowledge: The instructor should understand the needs and expectations of adult online learners and provide engaging learning activities that keep the students motivated and participating. He or she should have knowledge of the technology needed to facilitate the course, so that students can rely on prompt and efficient delivery of course content.

Clear expectations: She or he should have a clear sense of what students should know or be able to do as a result of their engagement with the course and should develop educational activities and assessments that allow students to develop and demonstrate those capacities.

Presence: An online instructor should establish a presence in the course. Post introductory remarks in the discussion board that demonstrate your enthusiasm for the course subject and teaching the class. Facilitate online discussion by posting an icebreaker discussion thread in which you tell students a little about yourself and have them respond with their own introductions.

Keys to effective online delivery

At Northeastern University Online, we focus on three key ingredients for successful and effective online education:

Preparation: Online courses must be ready for student use by the start of a course’s term. You should adhere to the 2 X 2 rule which requires that at least two weeks of your course materials must be ready for our review two weeks before your course starts.

Participation: Participate regularly in the course by providing feedback and guidance to the class. Providing routine instructor perspectives, engaging students by regularly monitoring and participating in discussions, holding optional synchronous sessions, and checking in with groups or individual students as needed are all ways to actively participate.

Communication: Respond in a timely manner to student questions and concerns through forums, private e-mails, announcements, virtual office hours, or Web conferences. For instance, you should respond to all significant student questions or requests within 24 to 48 hours in a Northeastern University Online course.

Next: Developing online or hybrid courses

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