Many innovative instructors at institutions worldwide are discovering the potential of the online environment to deliver instruction of the highest quality to people who would otherwise have limited access to higher education. This is an exciting and challenging time in education. Simply defined, online education refers to courses offered via the Internet. The minimum requirement for students to participate in an online course is access to a computer, the Internet, and motivation to succeed in a non-traditional classroom. Online courses provide an excellent method of course delivery unbound by time or location allowing for accessibility to instruction at anytime from anywhere. Adult learners in particular, find the online environment a convenient way to fit education into their busy lives. The ability to access a course from a home computer via the Internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a tremendous incentive for this group to reach their academic and career goals.
Your online instructor is an experienced professional in the field of Instructional Technologies and has a solid teaching background in higher education. Your classmates are colleagues at other institutions like yours and, like you, they want to acquire pedagogical and technical skills needed to successfully teach their own courses online. You share common interests and learning goals, and you provide each other with a wealth of information, experiences, and advice on the course topics. You will learn as much, if not more from your classmates as from your course instructor. To this end, participation and discussion are key to your success. Throughout the course, you will have ongoing, individual and group dialogues with the instructor and the other students, and you’ll receive personalized instructor feedback, and share insights and information with fellow online students. This online course should be fun as well as rewarding, and it is an exciting new way to learn that is interactive, engaging and stimulating.
Ignore the Clock
Your course is conducted according to a schedule, but there are no “live” classes to attend. Instead, lectures, coursework, assignments, questions, and discussion, all take place at your convenience – online. Log in whenever it is convenient for you – there’s no classroom to go to and no commute. You’ll never have conflicts with family obligations, business travel or vacations. There’s no chance of arriving late or missing a class because of illness or lack of child care. You can even come to class in your pajamas! You choose the hour of day (or night) to attend class. You choose the place – at home, at work – wherever you have access to a computer and the Internet. Except for turning in assignments when they’re due, your schedule is totally up to you.
The online format allows for a high level of dynamic interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves. Resources and ideas are shared, and continuous synergy will be generated through the learning process as each individual contributes to the course discussions and comments on the work of others. The synergy that exists in the student-centered Virtual Classroom is one of the most unique and vital traits that the online learning format possesses.
Within an online asynchronous discussion structure, you have time to carefully reflect on each comment from others before responding or moving on to the next item. This allows you to articulate responses with much more depth and forethought than in a traditional face-to-face discussion situation where you are forced to analyze the comment of another on the spot and formulate a response or otherwise lose the chance to contribute to the discussion.
Within an online discussion, you will respond to the course material (lectures and online articles, for example) and to comments from other students. Participants usually respond to those topics within the broader conversation that most clearly speak to their individual concerns and situations resulting in several smaller conversations taking place simultaneously within the group. While it is expected that you will read all of your classmates’ contributions, you will become actively engaged only in those parts of the dialog most relevant to your needs. In this way, you are in control of your own learning experience and can tailor the class discussions to meet your own specific needs. Ideally, you’ll make your own individual contributions to the course while at the same time take away a unique mix of information directly relevant to your needs.
Level Playing Field
In the online environment learners retain a considerable level of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race and gender are largely absent. Instead, the focus of attention is clearly on the content of the discussion and your ability to respond and contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the material at hand.
Access to Resources
With the Web as your classroom, you have easy access to unlimited resources to support the course topics. Your instructor has arranged for a distinguished expert from another institution to deliver a guest lecture and participate in follow up discussion. You will also have access to resources from all over the world including links to scholarly articles, institutions, and other materials relevant to the course topic. You can use these resources for research, extension, or in depth analysis of the course content material.