About the National Institute for Online Learning

About the National Institute for Online Learning


Last week MindEdge Online added two courses on online learning from the National Institute of Online Learning (NIOL). It was a milestone for the Institute, which seeks to improve the quality and effectiveness of online learning, especially for adult learners, by promoting best practices and innovation in the field.

We founded NIOL last year for several reasons. First, we thought that MindEdge Learning had knowledge and expertise of value that we believed would be helpful for those involved in online education. MindEdge has developed effective online courses and simulations used by hundreds of thousands of students in higher education and the private sector. The Institute seemed to be an appropriate vehicle in that transfer of learning.

Second, in working with partners and new entrants to the field, we encountered somewhat of a gap between theory and practice—some of those tasked with designing and creating online courses did not have prior grounding in learning theory or much exposure to the technology involved. We think the Institute can help in educating those who want a deeper background in online learning.

Third, we wanted a place where those interested in educating adults would be able to find resources. While the recent emphasis on MOOCs and undergraduate online education is promising, we thought that the challenges of designing and creating online courses and simulations for adults continues to deserve focused attention.

For those reasons, and others, we decided it was time for NIOL. What can you expect from the Institute in the near future? NIOL will be focused on training, education, consulting, and advocacy.

The Institute will offer additional courses focused on various aspects of online learning, including instructional design, course development, and key technologies. By the end of 2013, learners will have the opportunity to earn NIOL’s Online Learning Fundamentals Certificate, awarded for the successful completion of the Institute’s twelve introductory courses.

NIOL will also release occasional white papers focused on relevant learning topics (including narrative and adaptive learning) and will host webinars on best practices in course and simulation design and on technology issues.

The Institute will also be establishing an advisory board of academics, practitioners, educators, and others interested in online learning to help us keep NIOL abreast of the latest developments in the field.

You can learn more about the Institute at the NIOL website, or you can contact me directly at MindEdge Learning (info@mindedge.com) with any questions or suggestions.

Jefferson Flanders, an author and educator, is president of MindEdge. He has taught at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, Babson College, and Boston University.
Copyright © 2013 Jefferson Flanders

One thought on “About the National Institute for Online Learning

  1. I think the effort described above has a chance of becoming a barrier to needed changes in education. Yes, this may resemble the Wild West of online learning, but by tolerating different kinds of approaches to teaching online we will get new, innovative formats that traditional educational pedagogy has failed to put forth. Hampering the burst of online courses is counterproductive in this early stage. Rules and requirements will turn away the enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are often behind such projects. It is not in the best interests of the early students who are most likely self-selected individuals already comfortable with technology. The online education community needs “early adopters” for their value in providing critical assessments of courses. They are vital in conducting the post-mortem. Please do not let your organization do anything to crush the energetic collaboration just begun between computer scientists and educators. We have not seen so many diverse resources focuses on learning before. It’s a real chance to offer individually paced learning. Educators have to welcome creative input from people outside education if they don’t want to stagnate within the narrowly-focused world of information dissemination followed by intermittent quizzes and concluding with an exam online. Interactive learning is a start, but if lessons follow historic lesson plan teaching it is not enough of a paradigm shift to engage today’s students.

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