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In case you missed it: What to expect in online education from The Innovation Room at New England College of Business

With continued technological advances and the growing value of higher education, more and more students are taking online courses. How can you decide whether an online program will help you achieve a quality education, and what are the advantages of online versus on-ground programs? A recent Innovation Room session at New England College of Business explored the benefits of online education, and explained which factors students should consider when deciding if a program can meet their needs.

To help you make this important decision, we've compiled the components of a quality online education from the event's presentations by General Education Professor and Program Chair Patrick Hutchinson and former Provost Debra Leahy.

In the online classroom, everyone sits in the front row. Contrary to myths that students can attend class just by "sitting in their PJs," a lot is expected from students in the online classroom. Unlike the traditional classroom, students' thoughts and contributions are visual, and are readily challenged by professors. At NECB, our online platform keeps students up-to-date on assignments and discussion board topics, while also making instructor feedback readily available. Quality programs should specify how many hours of engagement are required, should facilitate participation from students and enable professors to provide ample feedback.

Online courses facilitate networking. Common misconceptions are that distance learners cannot bond with faculty members or their peers. In fact, most online courses are designed to maximize feedback from faculty members, and group projects are often built into courses. At NECB, our students are encouraged to network in-person and online. When deciding on an online program, ask if you can speak with current students about their experience, ask professors about their communication policies and find out who else will be in your classes so you can connect with them on LinkedIn.

Coursework is readily applicable. Online courses help students solve problems they currently face on the job. Programs that deliver a quality education shouldn't contain "canned courses." They should have a rubric or curriculum that has been created by the professor teaching the course.

Online programs integrate technology. Accessing lectures and course materials online can help students who view technology as cumbersome to learn to use it to their advantage. Students who are already tech-savvy can build on the online communication skills they currently possess. Quality online programs should be able to explain the technology that is required in the classroom, and should provide technical support for their students. For example, NECB provides free, around-the-clock online tutoring support.

Hutchinson and Leahy ended the Innovation Room presentation with a Q&A session, answering questions from attendees about the factors potential online students should consider. For all the tips, be sure to watch the full video.

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