Our Beliefs

What Do We Believe In?

Photo of Natalie GiesbrechtHi. I'm Natalie Giesbrecht, and I’m a Distance Learning Program Development Specialist here in Open Learning and Educational Support at the University of Guelph. I'm part of a team of specialists working to design and develop online courses which are interactive, engaging, and tailored to fit your needs as an online learner. It's my job to work with course authors to design the learning strategies, activities, assignments and materials for your online courses.

In our planning, we use a list of criteria known as Best Practices. These guidelines help us to make sure that we are planning for and producing online courses of the highest quality, and are giving you a learning experience that will meet your needs.

Here's what we believe about online learning...

We believe that online learners need to feel connected - both to their instructors and to the other people in their online class. You won't feel isolated and alone in an online course from the University of Guelph. Our courses build in opportunities for you to get to know, talk to and work with the other people in your course using our "asynchronous" computer conferencing system. We believe that people learn best when they have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from a variety of viewpoints.

We believe that timely and consistent feedback is important to your success in an online course. If you've taken a correspondence course before, you might have experienced the "black hole syndrome" - where you keep sending in your assignments, but nothing ever seems to come back to you before the next one's due, and you're never quite sure where you stand, or even if you're "getting it." In our online courses at Guelph, we're trying to avoid that: by having you submit assignments online or by fax (so they're not held up by the postal system); by providing links to your course instructors through easy-to-use email and computer conferences; by giving you online access to your marks as soon as they're posted by your instructors.

We believe that you need a clear framework to help you work through the course, with weekly schedules and clearly defined due dates. We'll try to give you a small assignment early in your course, with others paced throughout the semester, so you can get going early and keep on track. And while online learning allows you lots of flexibility in your day-to-day scheduling, we've learned that suggesting a weekly schedule can be just the help students need to keep progressing and finish what they've started.

We believe that online courses should be interactive, that is, you should get to do something as you learn. In our online courses, you'll find learning activities designed to help you practice the concepts you're learning. We want you to be actively involved in your own learning, so we've tried to avoid putting lecture materials up on the web. Instead, we use the web for what it does best - connecting you to your instructor, to other people and to resources that you can access as you complete the learning activities and assignments for the course.

We believe that no two students learn in exactly the same way, so we try to provide you with a variety of learning materials. Many of our "web-based" courses come with course manuals, video tapes, CD's, or readers. We try to offer you a choice of assignments and projects in each course so you can pursue what interests you most.

We also believe that you should have access to all the resources that you need to successfully complete your course - without having to come to the University campus. While you are welcome to come on campus, use the library, and meet any of us in person, we believe that you shouldn't have to if it's not convenient for you to do so. Our library is committed to helping you access its resources at a distance.

We believe in designing our online courses so that they place you - the learner - at the centre of the process, and surround you with the resources and help you need to make taking an online course a successful and rewarding learning experience.

Want to know more?

You can find out more about what we believe in by reading the Best Practices document, or by reading the Mission Statement for Open Learning and Educational Support. And you are welcome to learn more about our commitment to provide you with online resources and help by visiting our Learner Resources pages.