Skip To Content

Athabasca University


MDDE 621: Online Teaching in Distance Education and Training

Delivery mode: Online course using Moodle

Credits: 3 - Elective

Prerequisites: MDDE 601, MDDE 602 for MEd program students only

Instructor Spring 2016: SusanBainbridge,



MDDE 621, Online Teaching, presents fundamental concepts, basic principles, background information, and models for the successful use of technology in distance education and training programs intended for various learners. Students need not be experienced teachers or trainers, but should have a basic familiarity with computer technology applications in distance learning environments (for example, through completion of MDDE610 or MDDE620, or equivalents), or have direct experience working or learning with technology. The term "online" in this course refers primarily to computer-based communications tools, but also includes the more familiar "low-tech" options.


Topics addressed include

  • learning principles and learner characteristics, including 'special' learning needs;

  • teaching behaviours and principles associated with learning, independent of the delivery medium;

  • organizational roles required by technology use, which distance learning teachers, trainers and administrators may be expected to fill;

  • professional development (PD) issues in online teaching and training;

  • characteristics (strengths and weaknesses) of some available and emerging learning technologies; and,

  • assessment and evaluation principles.


Course Units and Objectives


  1. Elements of online teaching and learning;

  2. Learning theories and principles;

  3. Teaching theories and principles;

  4. Professional development (PD) for online teachers and trainers;

  5. Online technologies: print, audio, and video;

  6. Computer-based technologies;

  7. The Internet;

  8. Computer-mediated communication (CMC); and,

  9. Assessment and evaluation.



  1. Identify principles and issues fundamental to supporting learning at a distance, and relate these to the concept of online teaching.

  2. Analyse technologies available in distance education and training contexts, and identify important features and capabilities of these, supportive of learning at a distance.

  3. Focusing on online tools (defined as those that support ready interaction), identify the capabilities, demands, and limitations of tools for distance applications.

  4. Review models of cost-benefit and return on investment (ROI) analysis; develop a model for each that applies to implementation of distance education/training technology.

  5. Consider fundamental professional development (PD) issues for online teachers, trainers and managers.

  6. Summarize characteristics of successful implementations of online teaching and learner support.

  7. Distinguish the instruction and support needs of learners of various backgrounds, and in various learning/training situations, and relate these to the planning process.

  8. Develop, identify or adapt a model for formative and summative evaluation of online learning.

  9. Apply some of the online learning models identified with real or hypothetical situations, and report and analyze the results in a manner that would guide decision-making.


Online Interaction

Students communicate with each other and the course instructor in MDDE 621 primarily by computer-mediated communication (e-mail and computer conferencing). Assignments are normally submitted by electronic file transfer. Options to regular conference (CMC) participation are provided (details are provided on the course website, and are to some degree dependent upon decisions of individual section instructors).



Course requirements are as follows:

  1. Computer-Mediated Conference participation (CMC), summary posting, or reading summary (10 marks).
    Students may participate in the unit CMC conference, post an 'application' on some element of unit content, or present a summary of an article from outside the course required readings. (Details of these options are provided early in the course by the instructor.)

  2. Assignments of choice (90 marks).
    The student completes assignments of choice, selected from a list of topics provided by the instructor. One assignment may, with the instructor's consent, be developed from the student's own interests.


Course Materials

e-Text: Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M. & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry.

Online Study Guide

Online readings


Get Started Early

Early access to the Learning Management System, Moodle, begins one week before the official start date of your course, at that time you will have limited access to the course. On the Official Start Date of the course, instructors will be available and the discussion forums will automatically become active.


Last updated by MM April 21, 2016

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.