Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

According to Conrad & Donaldson (2011), the key to creating a positive experience in an online learning environment is to identify the students’ needs and then incorporate activities that address their various learning styles, life experiences, and expectations. In order to do this, there are two factors that must be considered. First, the instructor or designer must be proficient regarding course design and technology tools. Second, the instructor must set clear expectations for students, not only in terms of academic performance but also learning climate.
Technology Tools  MM900286755[1]

There are several learning  management systems available to create online courses. Each provides its own tools for navigation, resources, communication, and interactivity. As an instructor, it is essential that one is proficient in the use of all technology tools available and can efficiently navigate the course. If the instructor does not know how to use these tools, how can they become a personal resource for students? Although, there is always tech support, it is often a convoluted process. Rather than call in, wait for a long time, and possibly not get assistance needed; they can simply ask the instructor. It is also important that the instructor creates opportunities for students to learn how to use these tools. There are several ways for an instructor to facilitate this type of learning. Conrad & Donaldson (2011) posit that the best way for students to learn to use the online course tools is to actually use them. To that end, it is suggested that the instructor determine students’ current skill level in order to evaluate readiness. This can through a simple survey or an activity such as a scavenger hunt. In any case, these are not graded assignments, just an assessment for the instructor to ascertain where and with whom additional support may be warranted.

imagesCA4K9G0Z                                          Student Expectations

Like with any course (face-to-face or online), it is essential that the instructor set clear expectations for students in terms of academic performance and personal interactions. The most effective learning environment is one in which students
are clear about what is expected and how performing according to these expectations will ensure academic, professional, and personal success. Sheridan & Kelly (2010) posit that indicators that were most important to students dealt with making course requirements clear and being responsive to students’ needs. Students should not have to make a guess regarding learning tasks or grading. This should be made crystal clear at the very beginning of course. In addition to a syllabus, rubrics, and exemplars of
completed learning tasks; an instructor can utilize weekly teaching guides to reiterate what needs to be done and how each task should be approached. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) suggest that teaching guides in the form of a short text, audio, or video piece will introduce the goals, purposes, and activities for the week. Additionally, they will provide a rational for learning activities chosen and introduce core concepts.

Other Factors

The Quality Matters program suggests in its Quality Management Rubric (2011) that there are eight critical components of an online course that must be in alignment to create an effective online learning experience. These components: (1) Learning Objectives (2), Assessment and Measurement (3), Resources and Materials (4), Learner Engagement (5), and Course Technology (6) – work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes. So in both the design stage as an ID and the preparation stage as an instructor, it is essential to continually check and balance elements of the course to ensure there is alignment amongst these components.

Using some of the best practices suggested by Palloff and Pratt (n.d.), the instructor can create a strong, positive, and collaborative learning environment that will assist in this alignment. A great deal of this work is done before the course even starts. During Week Zero, the instructor does all the things necessary to set the context of the learning environment. It is when they introduce themselves, icebreakers, offer words of welcome, and review available information about each student. There are specific guidelines that govern these suggested activities.

                                     MC900432663[1]

  1. Introductions: The instructor should post a narrative about him or herself and respond to student introductions by asking probing questions. Do not post a CV.
  2. Icebreaker: The instructor should utilize an activity that is non-threatening, fun, and does not require students to have specific content knowledge to complete. The most effective icebreakers are those that will provide continual dialogue.
  3. Welcome: The instructor should not only post a welcome message but reach out to students individually in Week Zero or One to set the tone for instructor/student interaction.
  4. Review Student Information: Instructor should use information that was provided about the student from the school/organization as well as student biography to learn about each student.
  5. To-Do-List: The instructor should create a to-do-list or course preparation checklist to ensure that he or she has met all the expectations for setting up the course. Additionally, the instructor should create another checklist to utilize throughout the course to ensure they are participating actively in the learning through weekly prompts, feedback, discussion responses, student questions, and grading.

By doing all these things, the instructor will create a climate that is interactive and supportive. While it is important to explore and learn content, “we don’t want education to be deadly serious…engagement should be fun” (Palloff and Pratt, n.d.).

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

MarylandOnline. (2010). The Quality Matters program rubric. Retrieved from http://www.qmprogram.org/rubric

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (n.d.). Launching the Online Learning Experience. {Video Presentation}.

Sheridan, K. & Kelly, M.A. (2010). The indicators of instructor presence that are important to students in online courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4).

Available http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no4/sheridan_1210.htm

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

  1. Hi Iona,
    I agree with you in the information that was extracted from our class resources. I too, believe that if an instructor posts too much information, especially in their CV, it tends to frighten some students. They may not ask for help, because they may feel embarrassed. This may be especially true for adult learners. I think that maybe it could be available in a link, just in case there are students who want to be assured that the instructor is credible to teach their class.
    It is highly agreed that the instructor should attempt to learn any and all the technology that is available to them. In today’s technical world, learners are exposed to a world of ever changing technology. Although, the instructor can learn some technical applications from the learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), it would be wise for the instructor to take advantage of every technical application available to them, in and out of the class. By the instructor keeping up with technology, he/she can save him/herself the embarrassment of not knowing how to use technology. Once a person loses credibility, it is hard for it to be established again.

    Reference:

    Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  2. Hi Iona,
    I agree with you in the information that was extracted from our class resources. I too, believe that if an instructor posts too much information, especially in their CV, it tends to frighten some students. They may not ask for help, because they may feel embarrassed. This may be especially true for adult learners. I think that maybe it could be available in a link, just in case there are students who want to be assured that the instructor is credible to teach their class.
    It is highly agreed that the instructor should attempt to learn any and all the technology that is available to them. In today’s technical world, learners are exposed to a world of ever changing technology. Although, the instructor can learn some technical applications from the learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), it would be wise for the instructor to take advantage of every technical application available to them, in and out of the class. By the instructor keeping up with technology, he/she can save him/herself the embarrassment of not knowing how to use technology. Once a person loses credibility, it is hard for it to be established again.
    Reference:
    Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  3. Hi Iona, I am trying to post to your two blogs. But when I do try to post, it tells me that I have already posted the same info. Can you help me? Thanks.

    Original E-mail From :Imspikes’s Blog [comment-reply@wordpress.com] Date :01/27/2013 01:29 PM To :jamhel.jordan@waldenu.edu Subject :[New post] Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

    WordPress.com Iona’s E-Learning Experience posted: “Untitled DocumentAccording to Conrad & Donaldson (2011), the key to creating a positive experience in an online learning environment is to identify the students’ needs and then incorporate activities that address their various learning styles, life ex”

  4. Hi Iona,
    You mentioned that the instructor should know how to use all of the technology tools that they expect their students to use and I couldn’t agree more. I have taken classes where I was told by the instructor to contact tech support because she didn’t know either. Also, your advice that the “instructor determine students’ current skill level” is so true. Taking courses out of sequence has caused me some technical difficulties and I have yet to have gotten an instructor who made a point of finding out if I knew what I needed to know to be successful in that class. As referenced by you, Conrad & Donaldson (2011) said that the “best way for students to learn to use the online course tools is to actually use them” and I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m also glad you mentioned weekly teaching guides. I had forgotten about them and they are very important. Using a video piece is a great idea. Students learn better when they can use more than one of their senses. Video uses visual and audio, incorporating two styles of learning. Creating them on a weekly basis will help keep students engaged and on track.

    Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    I enjoyed your post.
    Laura

  5. Thank you for your insights, Iona! I wholeheartedly agree, without some sort of tangible connection between learner and student in the first weeks of the course, the opportunity for the rapport needed for a successful learning may be lost. It is sometimes discounted as important because it’s hard to define, but our readings this week outline just how important it is. This article may state that far better than I can! http://www.socialpsychology.org/rapport.htm

    Shirelle

  6. Iona,

    Your wisdom as a principal and educator shines through. I really enjoy reading your post. I gain new insight from your post as well as confirmation of my own thoughts. I completely agree with the information you conveyed from the classroom resources. My wife took a course and the instructor had absolutely no clue what was going on. He posted all the files needed for the course in several different places in the CMS. The titles of the documents made no sense to the students in the class. He constantly changed procedures each week, It was a complete mess. Start with the basics and become proficient with those first.Then move on to more advance features. It saves everyone a lot time and stress.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s