Learning Advice from an Expert: Meet Nina

For someone who loves teaching, designing learning experiences at a global scale brings together all of its best elements: joining learner and instructor perspectives, supporting learners to achieve their goals, and engaging with learning scientists to advance education from research. That’s one of the things we learned from our conversation with Nina Huntemann, Vice President of Learning at edX, in this installment of edX Insider.

When would you say you realized you had a passion for teaching?
I realized I had a passion for teaching about one week after starting my graduate program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I was assigned to be a teaching assistant for an undergraduate public speaking course. I thought to be a TA meant that I would be assisting a professor with the course; doing things like taking attendance, holding office hours and evaluating assignments. About two weeks before my first semester at UMass started, I discovered that I would be solely responsible for the course, planning class material, instructing students, grading assignments, everything! I had a lot to prepare and learn about being a college instructor, but after just a few classes with students, I knew I absolutely loved teaching!

How are you able to contribute to that through your role at edX?
At edX, when we design features for the Open edX platform and help our institutional partners bring their courses and programs online to the world, my team brings the learner and educator perspective to our work here. We consult with edX partner institutions on how best to teach online and at scale, and how best to support edX learners to achieve their learning goals. I also engage with a global community of learning scientists who are using edX platform data to advance education through research. I help our product managers and software engineers use that research to inform how we improve the Open edX platform.

What advice would you give to those new to online learning?
If you are new to online learning, first of all, WELCOME! Learning online is a fantastic way to increase your knowledge and skills in a more flexible and lower cost manner than many offline learning settings. To get the most from learning online and achieve your learning goals, here are three top tips.

  1. Set aside time for learning. This doesn’t mean you need to find 4 hour blocks, 3 days a week. Learning on edX is modular and flexible. You may find 15 minutes to watch a short video lecture and write a 3-sentence reflection post. But of course, other learning activities will require more time. Be planful and dedicate time to learn as you would to exercise or see friends or spend time with loved ones.
  2. Virtually meet and interact with your learning peers. You are not alone! Millions of people are learning on edX, and likely hundreds are in the course or program you are taking. Introduce yourself, answer questions posted by the instructor in the discussion forums, and respond to your peers’ posts. We hear all the time from people about how inspiring and motivating the community of peer learners was to their enjoyment and success. Join in!
  3. Make your learning stick with practice, application and reflection. The science of learning is so clear on this point! In order for the new knowledge and skills we learn to stay with us, inform our thinking and change our behavior we must repeatedly practice skills, apply knowledge in different contexts and reflect on what we have learned, especially as we practice and apply in new settings. A well designed learning experience will provide you with opportunities to practice, apply and reflect, but you can reinforce your learning outside of a class by bringing it home, into your everyday life and work.

Explore more tips and strategies for successful online learning.