General Information

Definition of Online Learning

Distance Education is an approach to learning where instruction takes place outside the traditional classroom setting. Instead of teaching face-to-face, instructors use electronic or a blend of face-to-face and electronic delivery methods to develop and furnish content for instruction and interaction with students.

There are two modes of distance education instruction:

Online An online distance education course is delivered via the Internet using a campus-supported Learning Management System (LMS). No on-campus meetings are required. Students are required to use a computer with Internet access as the primary technology and may be required to use other available technologies to acquire and learn course content. Through regular effective contact, instructor and students interact to complete assignments and assessments and to demonstrate Student Learning Outcomes. An online course will be designated as Online in published campus materials.
Hybrid A hybrid distance education course replaces some face-to-face class time with online instructional time. Any distance education course that requires students to attend on-campus orientations, assessments, scheduled class meetings, or other required activities is a hybrid course. A campus-supported Learning Management System is used to provide course content replacing face-to-face time. Students must have access to a computer and the Internet. A hybrid course will be designated as Hybrid in published campus materials.

There are also two additional courses types with online components:

Web Enhanced
When instructors have full capability to utilize the LMS in the same way they would in an Online or Hybrid course, but do not replace their classroom time with online instruction, this is considered to be a Web-Enhanced course.  These courses are not considered distance education courses.
Moodle-Lite In these courses instructors use the LMS simply to post materials and engage in discussion, but do not replace their classroom time with online instruction.  These are considered Moodle-Lite courses.  These courses are also not considered distance education courses.

Principles of Online Learning

Fundamental teaching and learning standards for undergraduate education also apply to teaching online and hybrid courses. This means that the following principles, based on Chickering and Gamson’s best practices for undergraduate education1, should inform distance education courses:

Principle 1:
Establish and maintain Regular Effective Contact.
Regular effective contact is a California requirement for distance learning which states that instructors must keep in contact with students on a regular and timely basis both to ensure the quality of instruction and to verify performance and participation status.
Principle 2:
Create opportunities for student-centered learning.
In distance education, instead of being the sole source of content knowledge, the role of the instructor is as a facilitator. Students should be encouraged to interact not only with the content and instructor but also with each other in order to understand, research and come to their own conclusions about the course material.
Principle 3:
Create opportunities that have practical real world applications.
The activities in distance education courses should be authentic, that is, based on tasks that students would have to perform in various setting outside the classroom. Students should also have chances to enhance their knowledge about the world through critical thinking and reasoning skills.
Principle 4:
Provide support for each student’s learning process and autonomy.
Distance education instructors should engage all types of learners by providing content and assessments that respect and accommodate the different needs, learning styles and strategies of each student. In addition, instructors should provide support for students in time management and academic skill development.
Principle 5:
Ensure all course content is readily and easily accessible to all students.
Instructors should make certain that their courses meet all the necessary accessibility requirements (508 compliance). They should also create course content and assessments that are user-friendly in terms of technology and provide alternate means of access to the course material should there be problems with the Learning Management System.
 1Chickering, Arthur, and Zelda Gamson. “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” American Association for Higher Education & Accreditation Bulletin. 39.7 (1987): 3-7. Web. 16 Sep. 2011. http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples1987.htm.


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This work, "Shasta College Online Faculty Resources", is a derivative of "PCCOnline Faculty Resources” by Pasadena City College Distance Education Program, used under a CC by Katie Datko, Editor.  "Shasta College Online Faculty Resources" is licensed under a CC by Ken Cooper, Editor.