CMU offers tips on making online learning successful for students

Faculty at the nation’s No. 1 online undergraduate program say online learning enhances academic experience
CMU faculty member Betsy Rau

Faculty at Central Michigan University, ranked the nation’s No. 1 online undergraduate program by U.S. News and World Report, suggest what to look for in online learning to enhance a student's overall academic experience.

“Now is an exciting time in online education,” says Lisa Fall, a CMU online journalism faculty member since 1998. “CMU has a robust history in offering alternative learning.  As the leader in online education, we continue to provide opportunities that enrich students’ academic experience.”

Faculty shared their expert advice in creating a successful online learning environment for more than 10,000 students in CMU’s Global Campus each year.

1. Accessibility

“I let students know I’m available on day one,” says Tammi Kolski, online psychology faculty member. “Students reach out and I respond, usually within a few hours. Open communication and a timely response is critical in online learning.”

“Students are in the driver’s seat in an online classroom,” says Benjamin Jankens, online educational leadership faculty member. “Access to content, lectures, assignments and other supportive materials must be available when it’s convenient for the student, which leads to better learning.”

2. Flexibility

“Flexibility in assignments and deadlines is key,” says Holly Ketterer, a CMU online psychology faculty member. “With the competing demands for students outside the virtual classroom, I look for ways to help them be successful, like providing weeklong windows to complete course work.”

“The use of discussion boards, blogs, wikis and other collaborative applications allows for continuous dialog in the online environment, resulting in an enriched learning experience,” said Jankens.

3. An engaging culture

“Students are motivated to learn when they feel comfortable in a classroom,” said Fall. “Using technology like Collaborate Blackboard and online chats allows us to create environments where students truly feel the presence of their peers surrounding them during class, which encourages students to interact and get to know each other.”

“My classes involve frequent and in-depth interaction with my online learners,” says Jeremy Bond, who teaches online educational technology. “The best interaction happens when I empower my students to engage with each other.”

“I work hard to get to know my students,” says Betsy Rau, faculty in CMU’s online social media certificate program. “At the end of every semester I host a dinner so students can actually meet each other. I feel it really brings the experience full circle.”

“Much of the credit for CMU’s ranking by U.S. News and World Report, as the leader in online education, can be given to our faculty,” said Peter Ross, associate vice president of academic programs for CMU’s Global Campus, which oversees the university’s online programs. “They are experts in creating environments that engage our students and enrich their academic experience.”