UC Answers: What are the benefits of online learning?
Dawn Clineman, UC's director of online instruction, shares advantages of online classes
Q: Can you speak in general about the types of learning and the quality of experience UC students can expect from online courses?
Clineman: When students learn in the online environment, they will typically do many of the same things they would do face to face. They’ll just use different tools. They will interact with their faculty and their peers through discussion boards, group work and video conferences. They will have reading assignments, watch lectures via videos, take tests, submit written assignments and so on. It’s important to remember the modality is different, but the learning is not.
Q: What are the key benefits for students who choose to learn online?
Clineman: The obvious benefit during this time is safety. During the Covid-19 pandemic you can continue your education and graduate on time by taking online courses. And you can do so without coming to campus, reducing your risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Another benefit is the ability to manage a flexible schedule. Many students choose to learn either completely online or take a class or two because they are managing a busy schedule. Having the option to learn online allows you to manage work schedules, school schedules and home/family schedules more successfully.
Q: What are some common elements that make a UC course successful no matter how it is delivered?
Clineman: The common elements in all UC courses that students can count on are interaction with your faculty members, interaction with fellow students and interaction with the learning content. Faculty design their courses to ensure there is a balance of these kinds of interactions in all courses, regardless of the modality. These interactions help to reinforce the learning within the course and also help to build a community.
Q: How can students get the most out of an online class?
Clineman: Be organized, use your schedules and stay motivated. Engagement is key, and sometimes you have to make that happen. Be sure to reach out to your faculty to ask questions, reach out to your fellow students and request time to video chat with your instructor. I would encourage all students to view their learning as a partnership with their faculty. Don’t be a passive participant – own your own learning. Learning is what you do with the content you’re given. Reach out to your instructors when questions arise to create opportunities for engagement.
Q: What are some common misperceptions about online learning?
Clineman: One misconception is that it’s easy. Online courses taken at UC have the same expectations in regard to effort and rigor as on-campus courses. Students will be meeting the same course objectives they would on ground. So approach your online courses ready to learn as you would any course. Another misconception is that students think “I’m on my own.” That is not true. All UC online courses are instructor-led and rely on interaction among students and faculty. You are not alone, and I would encourage you to reach out to your faculty if you ever feel you are. The responsibility for interaction lives with both the faculty and the students to make for a successful class experience.
Q: What would you say to students who may be feeling apprehensive as it relates to pursuing their degree in the COVID era?
Clineman: This is your time. As the world is figuring out how to move forward, you as a student are doing just that. You are moving toward your goal. Don’t let this situation slow you down. When this is all over, you’ll be ready.
Q: What would you say to professors who may be apprehensive or doubtful that their course can be delivered well online?
Clineman: You have support. There are many resources online in Canvas, in workshops hosted through CET&L, and within your department to help guide you. But most importantly, take one thing at a time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Find some learning tools and activities you are comfortable with, and use those. And talk to your students to be clear regarding what you expect, but also share with them what they can expect from you. Create a space for partnership, and together you can make your course a success.
Q: UC has decades of experience delivering online courses. What can you say about the quality of online education and how much it has evolved at UC in the last 20 years?
Clineman: UC has a long legacy of online learning and has graduated nearly 22,000 online students. This means that UC has helped to advance the lives of thousands of students through fully online degree programs. That is a point of pride for UC, myself personally, and all of my colleagues. We work everyday with faculty to make the online student experience an excellent one.
The quality of online learning at UC has been a continuous evolution. UC’s earliest online programs were created before learning management systems had ever been developed. Now with state-of-the-art tools, students are able to participate in an incredible array of media, simulation, audio/video graphics, animation and text. Our focus has been to serve students and help them achieve their learning outcomes. This means our digital learning toolkit is always evolving. UC participates with Quality Matters and the Online Learning Consortium as well as other online education collaborations. Through these we have adopted research-driven best practices in design and delivery of online courses.
UC Online is a part of the online ecosystem within UC, and through our partnerships with other UC units we focus on supporting faculty, creating opportunities to offer world-class online programs and creating support structures that help students reach their goals. The lessons learned with UC Online have been shared with many UC faculty, specifically with our Adult Learning Institute where over 50 faculty members recently completed an online course that focused on designing courses with best practices and adult learning theory.
Featured image at top: Dawn Clineman, director of online instruction at UC. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.