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By its nature, online education has no boundaries. Our classrooms have no walls. Our students span the globe, studying everywhere, at all times. Our approach to education has no historical precedent. At Oregon State Ecampus, every day is history in the making. Watch the video above to see how Ecampus staff and instructors partner to create opportunities that did not exist before.

By Julie Cooper
Jan. 8, 2018

Oregon State University Ecampus staff and instructors are in the business of creative solutions, and they have plenty to go around.

In addition to daily collaborations, the annual Oregon State Ecampus Faculty Forum allows Ecampus staff and OSU teaching faculty to share online course development success stories and inspire the use of advanced technologies and methods to optimize the student learning experience.

From virtual reality labs to online field trips, innovations in course development help make Ecampus a nationally ranked leader in online education, creating innovative and accessible ways for students to engage with course materials, their classmates and instructors.

In with the new

The age-old question about online education asks whether it can compare to the in-person learning experience.

Ecampus instructors are determined that, with their efforts and Ecampus’ innovative course development and multimedia team, it can be even better.

For many faculty, a focal point has been engaging students beyond lectures and slides, developing meaningful course content and more personal connections to encourage enthusiastic participation.

Over the shoulder of a student with short, dark hair and a blue shirt, a laptop screen shows the award-winning 3D microscope in use. On the left side of the screen is a close up of the sample in the microscope, while the right side shows the whole microscope.

Oregon State is no stranger to pushing the limits of technology, having created a nationally recognized and award-winning 3D virtual microscope for a biology course sequence that is the first of its kind.

Through simulation activities, Ecampus marketing instructor Nikki Brown interprets course content into real-life situations for her students, allowing them to make choices in a low-stakes environment and take control over their learning.

“I’m looking for ways to move the students from passive learning to more active learning, and I like to incorporate more fun into the classroom,” Nikki says. “It seems like the simulations are their favorite part of the class. They’re more engaged and focused on the content that I want them to understand, and they also get the benefit of interacting with other students.”

In an attempt to form significant personal connections with students, many instructors have chosen to craft lessons using a lightboard – or Learning Glass – which allows students to see and hear the instructor as they create visuals to illustrate key concepts. Ecampus has also been experimenting with interactive video elements that control video playback and prompt responses from the student for more active engagement.

With creative applications of emerging virtual and augmented reality tools, instructors are able to immerse online learners in settings they may never have encountered otherwise.

Oregon State is no stranger to pushing the limits of technology, having created a nationally recognized and award-winning 3D virtual microscope for a biology course sequence that is the first of its kind.

“Ecampus instructional designers, faculty support specialists, and multimedia developers help faculty find the right technologies to suit their particular course and their students’ needs,” says Ecampus director of course development and training Shannon Riggs. “Equipped with the right toolkit, faculty teaching online courses are able to connect with students in powerful and transformative ways.”

“Equipped with the right toolkit, faculty teaching online courses are able to connect with students in powerful and transformative ways.”

Providing a global perspective

With students in all 50 states and more than 50 countries enrolled in Oregon State courses online, Ecampus instructors rise to the challenge to expand their reach and develop course content that is applicable to real-life settings, regardless of a student’s location.

Ecampus crop science instructor Alyssa Duval seeks to transform the way her online students engage with their home environments through a survey of agriculture project.

Students take an active role, contributing to course materials by creating videos identifying characteristics of their local agriculture.

A student in an orange Oregon State hooded sweatshirt uses a virtual reality headset to complete a lab assignment. The virtual environment the student is in shows Petri dishes filled with samples on a table and lab tables in the background.

Ecampus is always exploring and creating new ways to enhance the students’ online experience. One example of this is the online soils lab, where Ecampus multimedia developers are taking the current interactive experience and turning it into a virtual reality, “hands-on” adventure.

She also provides insight into Oregon’s agricultural systems through farm tour videos and a virtual greenhouse environment. Students can then compare characteristics with their local area.

“My students are in love with the virtual greenhouse,” Alyssa says. “They’re able to go in at anytime from anywhere in the world and access it, see what the plants look like, rotate them so they can get into the nitty gritty identifying characteristics, and then apply that out in the real world.”

Bringing a global lens to the online classroom can be as simple as using a discussion board to create what Ecampus applied economics instructor Christy Anderson Brekken calls a “web field trip.”

“Students love to report back on what’s happening in their own state or country,” she says. “And that enriches the experience of all of the students because then they can all interact and have even more examples of how the material we’re learning about is applied.”

As they embrace the global nature of online learning, Oregon State instructors have access to an extensive toolkit of technology and Ecampus staff eager to make new ideas a reality.

Ecampus communications assistant professor Colin Hesse’s philosophy for building online courses: “Don’t accept ‘You can’t.’ Use the resources available and ask ‘How can we?’”

With this willingness to embrace the exploration process of pioneering online education, the future looks bright for Ecampus faculty and students.

Julie Cooper is a student marketing writer for Oregon State Ecampus.

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