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Online Courses and Learning Environments

The online team at the McGraw Center works with faculty to develop courses that are delivered partially or fully online. In close consultation with the instructor, we provide guidance in the design and production of course material, including video lectures, readings, and assignments.

Faculty members interested in developing an online course or experimenting with these innovative teaching environments should begin the process by consulting Jeff Himpele, Director, Teaching Initiatives and Programs or Laura Shaddock, Associate Director, Online Learning.

Courses with an online component can be categorized on the basis of who the students in the course are, and whether all or most of the learning activities take place online. Below is a list of the online course types that we support:

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Access to a MOOC is usually free and unrestricted, and all the learning activities take place online. Princeton University launched its first MOOC in 2012 with Professor Mitchell Duneier’s Introduction to Sociology on Coursera. To date, Princeton has offered nearly 60 MOOC sessions to over 1.5 million students worldwide. These online courses have varied widely in terms of their subject matter (e.g., sociology, history, politics, computer science, astrophysics, religion, philosophy, statistics, and electrical engineering), their length (ranging from six to twelve weeks), their timing (sometimes, but not always, running concurrently with the Princeton courses upon which they are based), and their many special features, formats and assessments.

Small Private Online Course (SPOC)

This type of course will usually only be open to Princeton’s students, and can be designed in different ways. The students might, for instance, watch lectures and complete assignments online, while face-to-face class time is used for other learning activities. Students in Sigrid Adriaenssens’s Fall 2014 class, Mechanics of Solids (CEE 205), used the online course site to access readings, view lectures, and submit their work.  David Robinson offered Data Analysis and Visualization Using R, a self-paced supplementary course open to all Princeton students. This course is a valuable resource to teach students the practical skills necessary to read, process and filter data, to perform rigorous statistical analyses, and to construct informative graphs and visualizations.

Flipped, hybrid or blended courses

These terms are often used synonymously to describe courses where the traditional elements of a college class are inverted: the students watch lecture videos at home, and spend in-class time on discussions, exercises and projects. The time spent in the classroom has not been reduced, but has been repurposed. 

For example, Prof. Steve Gubser requires his Introductory to Physics (PHY 102) students to watch his lecture videos online, before coming to class and then uses his class time for more active work. The online videos include multiple embedded quizzes to test students understanding of the material in the video and allows Prof. Gubser to focus discussion in class.

In another example, Prof. Jeremy Adelman’s Global HIstory Lab (HIS201) used an online environment to enhance and extend his course by bringing together his PU students with students from around the global so that they could learn from and share perspectives with one another.

Guidelines for Proposing an Online Course

Download questions to consider in a proposal to offer an online course through Coursera or NovoEd.