Successfully launching an online course requires careful planning which includes, knowing the technology tools available and selecting those that facilitate learning, defining and clearly communicating course expectations, as well as other considerations that might affect my students.
Significance of knowing the technology available
As an online instructor, knowing the technology tools available to me is significant in determining the structure (set up) of my course: the type of activities and assignments, the amount of time required for those activities and assignments, and the method of communicating with my students. It is also essential in communicating the course expectations to learners; i.e., what technology they are expected to use for the course. Furthermore, knowing the technology tools I have available helps me gauge the amount of time I would need to familiarize myself with those tools and to determine whether they facilitate or hinder the learning experience. When it comes to selecting the technology tools from those available to me, I would need to take into consideration the “maintainability, compatibility, usability, modularity, and accessibility” of those tools. (Kapp, 2003). And I would follow (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 57) recommendation of focusing on the “essential tools” especially for my first online course, and then branching out to the more sophisticated tools later on in subsequent courses.
Communicating clear expectations to learners
Clear expectations, note (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) significantly contribute to “ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course.” (p. 55). Clear expectations provide students guidance as to what they need to do at each stage of their learning process in the course, and thereby, minimize the potential for misunderstanding. As an online instructor, communicating clear expectations to my learners can help them set their learning goals based on those expectations, schedule and manage their schoolwork time better, and maintain focus on their learning process. For me as an instructor, setting and communicating clear expectations helps me stay organized and manage my workflow efficiently. Furthermore, and more importantly, as (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) note, communicating expectations clearly can help create “a smooth and trusting learning environment.” (P. 55)
Additional considerations I need to take into account when setting up an online learning experience include: recognizing and understanding my students’ cultural and language background, their level of online learning experience, the time zones of where they live, any personal factors that may affect their learning (whatever they are willing to share), and as much as possible, their learning styles and preferences. Knowing these factors can give me a glimpse of who my students are and where they’re coming from in terms of their learning approach. Consequently, I am better prepared to meet their learning needs.
Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 55, 57). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Kapp, K. M. (2003). Five Technological Considerations When Choosing an E-Learning Solution. eLearn Magazine. Education and Technology in Perspective. Retrieved on September 19, 2013, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2134469