Online Learning Environments

The new online learning platforms provide adaptive forms of delivering course content to students as well as tools for them to engage in individual and collaborative work. Teaching in an open online course in which all of the learning activities take place online enables faculty to share knowledge with a wide range of students around the world as well as enrich theirs and their students' perspectives on their disciplinary knowledge. Alternatively, by combining an on­campus class with a private online course site to deliver course content, faculty can use their face to face time in class for activities such as experiments, group projects, discussions and other learning experiences.

Private or open courses may be conducted as sessions that unfold over a number of weeks in which students form a cohort with a synchronous learning experience. Alternatively, courses may be offered so that all of the material is available for students to individually work through according to their own schedules or return for reinforcement. Online environments can be defined by who the students are, the extent of integration with an on­campus course, and the degree to which the learning activities take place online:

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Access to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is usually free and open to anyone in the world, and all the learning activities take place online. Princeton has offered more than a dozen MOOCS since 2012 and to more than 1.5 million students worldwide through the Coursera  and NovoEd platforms. These non­credit course offerings have varied widely across the disciplines and length. They are typically based on campus courses, may run concurrently with the courses upon which they are based, and offers Princeton students a supplement to their coursework. Students in a campus course may also be assigned to enroll in a course­related MOOC that is running concurrently so that they can learn from the online materials and from the diverse perspectives among global students, such as in Jennifer Widner's open online course Making Government Work in Hard Places (WWS 572A) and Jeremy Adelman's Global History Lab (HIS 201).

Flipped, hybrid or blended courses

These terms are often used synonymously to describe courses that are designed in a variety of ways that combine learning activities in both online and classroom environments. In a “flipped” class, for example, the traditional elements of a college class are inverted. Students might watch video lectures and complete assignments online so that their class time with faculty can be used for discussions, problem­solving, and other activities. For example, Prof. Steve Gubser requires his Introductory to Physics (PHY 102) students to watch his lecture videos online before attending class and he uses their class time to engage in interactive work. The online lectures include embedded quizzes that gauge students understanding of the material which allows him to focus class time on interactive demonstrations of concepts. In her Electronic and Phototonic Devices course (ELE 208), Prof. Claire Gmachl "flipped" several lectures with especially abstract or challenging material so that her students could interactively view her lectures videos by pausing and reviewing material in preparation for discussions with her in class about concepts and problems that need additional attention. In other hybrid courses, faculty use the online environment to extend the learning activities beyond the classroom. In another example, Prof. Jeremy Adelman’s Global History Lab (HIS 201) used his open online course to flip the lectures in the campus course and enhance the student experience by bringing together Princeton students and students from around the globe who were taking his MOOC so that they could learn from and share perspectives on global history with one another.

In an alternative form of hybrid or blended teaching, students in Prof. Sigrid Adriaenssens’s class on Mechanics of Solids (CEE 205) use their private online course site to access readings, view lectures, submit and give feedback on each other's design work. In this model, the classes are not "flipped", but the online environment is used to cohesively extend and amplify the activity of the classroom.

Small Private Online Course (SPOC)

At Princeton, a private online course is typically open to members of the University and contains online learning modules that might support coursework across a number of classes. Data Analysis and Visualization Using R is a self­paced set of learning modules that offer online lectures and assignments that support undergraduate and graduate students who use the “R" statistical software as part of coursework across many disciplines.