Why Teach Online

Princeton’s initiative in online education seeks to apply the lessons from decades of empirical research that has consistently established correlations between high student engagement and academic success. How can new online course environments and tools be used to create opportunities for heightening the interaction between faculty and their students in both online and classroom environments? What new forms of evidence do online learning tools produce that can help us study and identify effective strategies for teaching and learning?

In pursuing these questions, a number of faculty are experimenting with online learning environments in many ways:

  • "Flipping" their classes enables faculty members to present their lecture material in an interactive and adaptive mode for students, while opening up their class time for active engagement with material
  • “Blended” courses extend the classroom into an online course site that enables students to prepare for and continue in­ class learning activities, while strengthening connections between meetings and amplifying student interest
  • Assigning interactive online work for individuals or groups, such as programming assignments, problem­solving, peer­ reviewed writing, quizzes and exams, and creative projects that enable their students to apply knowledge as they encounter it, as well as to assess and share their learning
  • Using online data and feedback on student understanding and levels of engagement to adjust their plans for both classroom and online activities
  • Creating online modules to support learning in the most challenging areas of their courses or the curriculum to make material accessible to students with a wide range of academic experiences
  • Promoting an inclusive learning environment through meaningful online discussions and collaborative assignments that expand the activity of the classroom and increase engagement among students who may typically learn less effectively in lecture and seminar style settings
  • Globalizing campus courses by integrating them with massive open online courses (or MOOCs), in which students on campus and around the world are learning in the same setting, which diversifies perspectives about the subject and enriches the learning experience for students at Princeton and beyond

Faculty also found that online teaching enhances their own role as instructors:

  • Integrating online environments in their courses offers them new opportunities for meaningful interaction with their students during face­to­face time in class as well as in online settings
  • Using feedback and analytic data from online environments to reveal new insights into how students comprehend and engage with new material
  • Gaining new perspectives on their course material, whether by using online courses to expand participation among Princeton students or by opening their courses to students around the world.
  • Focusing on students’ perspectives in the design of online course materials transforms how faculty understand learning and approach their teaching.

For students, online courses, both MOOC and blended residential classes, provide a flexible learning environment, highly engaging learning activities, and an opportunity collaborate with students beyond Princeton’s campus. Students can access online lectures at any time, giving them the option to review them both before and after class meetings at their own pace. Many students have found online course modules to be more focused and efficient ways of learning. An online course environment can also offer opportunities to create and submit work in novel formats, such as blogs, videos, and presentations. This allows students to participate in learning in new ways that can encourage their engagement in class activities. 

Have more questions about teaching MOOCs? Read our responses to the 5 most frequently asked questions that faculty ask us.