UC Answers: What can I expect from UC online classes this fall?

Jason Lemon, vice provost of UC Online, discusses advantages and dispels myths of online learning

Q: What sort of learning experience can UC students expect this fall, whether they are enrolled in online courses or in-person courses?

Lemon: The University of Cincinnati has a longstanding tradition of academic excellence, instructional excellence, and high levels of student outcomes in all of their learning modalities, whether it’s online or in the classroom. Students can expect to learn the things that they need in order to advance their education, prepare for the careers that they have ahead and to be a fully participating member of our society.

Q: What are some common elements that make a UC course successful, no matter how it is delivered?

Lemon: When you see faculty begin to develop courses for instruction, whether they’re online or on ground, they always start with the end in mind. What is the student going to be able to do? What will the student know? What are the things that represent the learning outcomes, and how will those be achieved? The activities that a student will participate in will tie to and will lead to new skills, new knowledge and direct learning outcomes that make it possible for them to achieve the things they hope to achieve.

Q: How can students get the most out of an online class?

Lemon: Students can get the most from their instructional experience by being prepared, by understanding what the goals and the outcomes of the class are and then reviewing and preparing with learning materials, the activities, the quizzes and the research elements that are integrated as part of the course in order to achieve those outcomes.

Q: What are some advantages of taking online courses at UC?

Lemon: Many of UC’s online programs have become very highly ranked, with more than a dozen of them being the top 10 for their respective fields. Faculty have always been innovators in the online space at UC, and having them continue to refine and develop their courses for more than two decades means that the students who participate in our online courses are really experiencing and enjoying some of the best courses that exist in the country.

Q: What creative or innovative examples come to mind when you think about UC’s online education?

Lemon: The online faculty are able to integrate professional learning experiences that students can draw from their work environment, from their lived experience, from their peers. They also provide a robust set of activities that include multimedia audio, video, and other research and learning materials that make it possible for a student to gain the skills and the knowledge that they need to continue to advance in their education.

Q: How has online education evolved in the last twenty years?

Lemon: For more than two decades, the University of Cincinnati has been an innovator in the world of online instruction. Faculty at the University of Cincinnati have developed skills and techniques that allow them to engage students wherever they might be. Distance learning was the term that was used in the past, but we’ve learned that the people here right here in Cincinnati and Ohio are participating in online courses because they need to, because it’s the option that works for them. As we look forward to the future, we’re going to discover that online really becomes something that many of us need to participate in because it’s going to be the thing that works best for our lives, for our safety, for our health or maybe even for our environment. Faculty who are teaching online courses at UC take advantage of a very robust suite of academic technologies, learning management systems, digital, video, audio, text and animation. A whole variety of things are available and possible in an online course.

Q: What are some of the myths about online learning?

Lemon:  One of the myths about online learning is that it’s like a computer-based training experience. At the University of Cincinnati, faculty are present in the courses they’re engaged on a weekly and regularly on a daily basis. They respond to students. They lead discussion groups, guide group work as well as grade and evaluate student learning activities, assignments and projects.

A second myth that students will sometimes hear about online courses is that they are easier than other types of courses. At the University of Cincinnati, this isn’t the case. Students will be involved in very rigorous and robust learning experiences. Students will be preparing and presenting projects and reports and other types of demonstration of their learning abilities.

Another myth that sometimes comes up is that there is no sense of community in an online course. At UC,  courses are designed so the students have peer learning and peer engagement activities, as well as the opportunity to bring in real-life experiences from their own environment. Not only do the students engage with each other, but they’re able to bring the experiences from wherever they might be. And with students in all 50 states, participating in online courses, it’s a great opportunity for others in the class to see how things might be different in other parts of the country or in other companies or in other environments than what they might typically see if they were here in a classroom.

Q: What would you say to students who may be feeling apprehensive, as it relates to pursuing their degree in the COVID era?

Lemon: As students consider all the different options they have with respect to online or on-campus courses, one of the things that they can keep in mind is that experiencing new things, learning to adapt to new learning modalities, participating in a digital learning environment, all of these are skills that will be necessary in the future. We don’t know what the future holds in terms of health or other challenges. We know that the changes that we face are going to be large. We know that they’re going to be continuous, and the ability to flex, the ability to engage with material and with each other, all of those things are life skills. They’re professional skills, and they are the skills of the future. They’re the things that are going to make it possible for us to continue to contribute to the common body of knowledge that are going to make it possible for us to achieve academically. They’re the things that will make it so that we can continue to research, to explore and to learn.

Q: Any final thoughts about online education?

Lemon: The standards of quality and academic rigor, the standards of instruction and excellent education have been present at the University of Cincinnati in the classroom and online for decades. Students are able to engage with their instructors. They’re able to interact with their groups. They’re able to do projects, presentations. The online environment really isn’t a barrier. It’s just a shift in modality. It’s a shift in thinking. It’s a way that students begin to discover new ways of learning.

Featured image at top: Jason Lemon, vice provost of UC Online, stands inside Nippert Stadium on campus. photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

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