An online course has the same learning objectives as a traditional course but is presented online through technology. At UNE Online, courses are developed by pairing a subject matter expert with an instructional designer to develop learning experiences that are efficient, pedagogically sound, and appealing.
Using a typical public health course as an example, this post discusses the “who, what, where, when, and how” of taking a class online at the University of New England. We’ll take a look at how this sample online public health course is structured, what’s expected of you, what resources are available to you, and more.
1. Course outline: the syllabus
The majority of online public health courses are eight weeks long and broken out into eight modules. There are a couple of courses that have the modules broken out by content, but most courses divide out the course by week. During orientation, you’ll get a course syllabus which is your roadmap for what to expect (and when to expect it) for your particular course.
2. Absorbing the content
Depending on the course, you’ll have a textbook, and you’ll be provided with other resources, both required and supplemental, to read. Each week, you’re required to read a certain number of chapters, and a specified amount of supplemental materials.
For example, in one week of your online course you could be required to read:
Five chapters from the textbook
One article linked within your Blackboard account
Supplemental reading for that week could include:
One business case
Review of three official policies
Review of 13 websites
Each week there is also an online lecture given by the course instructor, facilitator, or guest lecturer, depending on the week and the class schedule. Time management skills are essential in order to balance your workload.
3. Interacting with your classmates – the discussion board
Each week you’re expected to log into your discussion board and interact with the other students in the class. Your discussion board is either hosted on Blackboard Learn or Brightspace Learning Management System. Your Student Support Specialist will assist you if you need help determining where to log in.
On Sunday, the first day of the class week, you need to log into your course and contribute your initial post to the discussion. Your post will always relate directly to what you are learning in that week’s module. So you make your initial post, on topic, and you log out. By Wednesday, you must log back in and respond to at least two classmates’ posts.
Don’t worry if you feel that you have nothing to contribute at first. Opinions are wide, and the topics are broad in many cases, leaving the topic open to broad interpretation. The point is to have meaningful, on-topic, dialogue.
Think of the forum as a sort of Facebook timeline. Your “Facebook Status” is like your initial post that you publish on Sundays. And other students in the class leave “comments” on your post. And be sure to practice professional discussion board etiquette at all times!
4. The concurrent project
Over the course of the class, as you’re keeping up with your reading and thoughtfully contributing to your class’ discussion forum, there’s a project to think about. The project generally takes the form of a paper, around five to ten pages double-spaced, in length. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate your knowledge that you’ve gained through your reading and demonstrate the depth of understanding of the material.
The project requires a deeper understanding than simply regurgitating facts. You will be asked to compare and reflect on different points of view on the topic at hand. You’re evaluated on the depth and breadth of scope of your writing, as well as the quality of your writing. Spelling counts! The project assignment is generally submitted halfway through the class.
5. Additional assignments
In some classes there are also additional assignments required to be turned in at specific points throughout the course, to make sure you are achieving your learning objectives.
6. Final exam
The final exam is generally a short paper, roughly six to 12 double-spaced pages. Final exam questions are often published two weeks before the end of class and are often open-book. You’re given a series of questions to answer in a clear and thorough, yet succinct manner, and you’re evaluated on how well you have assimilated the course materials, the amount of original thought you demonstrate while answering the topic questions, and on the quality of your writing.
One size does not fit all
Obviously, your class may (and probably will) look different than the outline above. My intent here is to give you a sense of what to expect in general. The syllabus is your guide through the course particulars and will spell out your obligations and requirements for completing the class successfully.
Making the first step
Taking an online master’s-level or post-master’s-level course is not a commitment to be taken lightly. But this is the material that you’re passionate about. This is what you love to do. This is your chance to take a deep dive into your area of expertise and nerd out with other experts in your field. You can bounce ideas and theories off of other students and instructors in a safe and supportive environment. And, just as exciting, the things you learn in class often times are immediately applicable to your work in real life.
It’s hard work. But as Einstein said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.”
Do you have more questions about how to take an online course at UNE? Get in touch with an enrollment counselor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-(855)-325-0896. We are happy to walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have.