Introduction

This web-based guide was created for instructors in the UMass Amherst Online Sustainable Food and Farming Program based on our experience as online instructors and the UMass guidebook for online instructors linked below.

The full guidebook may be found here: teaching_and_learning_online_handbook (pdf)

This guide was developed by a group of UMass faculty who participated in an Online Fellows program developed through the efforts of the Center for Teaching, the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, the Center for Computer-Based Technology, and the Division of Continuing Education.

We have found the suggestions in this guide useful in creating online classes offered as part of the UMass Sustainable Food and Farming program (described in the ABOUT section).

Our courses in Sustainable Food and Farming are offered using an asynchronous format.  According to the guidebook, “Asynchronous learning methods use the time-delayed capabilities of the Internet. It typically involves tools, such as:

  • e-mail
  • threaded discussion
  • newsgroups and bulletin boards
  • file attachments

Asynchronous courses are still instructor-facilitated but are not conducted in real time, which means that students and teacher can engage in course-related activities at their convenience rather than during specifically coordinated class sessions. In asynchronous courses, learning does not need to be scheduled in the same way as synchronous learning, allowing students and instructors the benefits of anytime, anywhere learning.”

Advantages of Learning  Online

Online learning offers a variety of educational opportunities:

Student-centered learning

The variety of online tools draw on individual learning styles and help students become more versatile learners.

Collaborative learning

Online group work allows students to become more active participants in the learning process. Contributing input requires that students comprehend what is being discussed, organize their thinking coherently, and express that thinking with carefully constructed language.

Easy access to global resources

Students can easily access online databases and subject experts in the online classroom.

Experiential learning through multimedia presentations

New technologies can be used to engage and motivate students. Technology can also be used to support students in their learning activities.

Accessible for non-traditional students

Online delivery of programs and courses makes participation possible for students who experience geographic and time barriers in gaining access to higher education.

Draws on student interest in online learning

Many students are interested in online learning. In a recent survey conducted by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment at UMass Amherst, more than 50% of students surveyed said that they were “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in taking an online course.

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What do we know about online education?

More than 6,000,000 students are currently taking online classes in the U.S according to a study by Babson Survey Research Group, e-Literate, and WCET.

 It is becoming common for students to take classes online! 

Most online students attend large public institutions