Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

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

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.

Thank you,

Marta

References:

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

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6 thoughts on “Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

  1. Marta, You state, “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.” I also wrote about this in my blog. Often instructors are learning some of the technology along with students. I have always found that with each additional time that I taught a course, I learned something that I could implement the next time around. I believe that a good motto to follow, especially when teaching a course for the first time, is to “KEEP IT SIMPLE!?

    • Marta and Lisa,

      I have to agree with the “KEEP IT SIMPLE”. Especially, like Lisa mentioned, if the students (and instructor) are learning new technologies and/or programs when engaging in the course.

      I also like the idea of including an open discussion board for students to post their helpful hints on if they are learning new technologies. This kind of board would have been so helpful to me and some of my other classmates when we had to implement Adobe Creative Suite (when it was required for this program).

      Great ideas ladies!

      Karen

  2. Hello Marta,
    I enjoyed reading your post this week. Online learning consists of many considerations that must be made for students to be successful. Making sure the technologies used are the right ones for the course being presented is essential (Boettcher & Conrad, 2011). Also being specific regarding expectations in the classroom from your students and what the students expect from the instructor is vital (Boettcher & Conrad, 2011). I have been frustrated at times during my courses at Walden because the technology being introduced was foreign to me and trying to learn how to use it effectively while on a strict timeline and submit work that would be considered above average was not a good feeling. After learning the many new technology tools that I have learned has taught me how to approach my students in the future to avoid some of the frustrations I encountered. Keeping the technology tools simple in the beginning is the best advice Boettcher and Conrad (2011) could have given. Adding bells and whistles to a course would only be beneficial for more advanced students in my opinion although anyone can learn if given the right resources and support.

    The key elements of any online course and what will ensure the success of all stakeholders are:
    • Learner interaction
    • Course Overview and Interaction
    • Course Technology
    • Accessibility
    • Learning Objectives and Outcome
    • Assessment and Measurement
    • Resources and Materials.

    With the new knowledge we have gained through this course thus far I can already see what students would appreciate from their instructor and how to make the online learning experience enjoyable. Giving personal human aspects of my life as an instructor will help to build trust among my students and myself (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) Taking into consideration different cultures, level of technology skills, and other personal factors will impact a student’s success in online learning but all of these differences can be dealt with to make sure students are learning and enjoying their online experience.

    References

    Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. (pp. 9, 11). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Launching the online learning experience.

  3. I like and agree with your thoughts on “Additional Considerations.” A person’s learning style definitely comes into play in an online classroom environment just like a traditional classroom setting. “An additional consideration is the individual learning style of the student and her or his comfort with the online environment. The Are You Ready for Learning Online? activity questions students to see if they are ready to make the transition from the familiarity of the classroom to the online environment” (Conrad & Donaldson et. al., 2011, p. 39). I would use the “Are You Ready for Learning Online? activity as well as the “Icebreaker” activity.

  4. Hi Marta. You pointed out some things that we need to keep in mind when setting up the online learning course such as “recognizing and understanding each student’s 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.” We definitely need to keep in mind that every student is different and may learn at his or her own pace. In addition, if the students can supply more information about themselves maybe during an icebreaker exercise it would definitely help to get a sense of who they are. Students also need to frequently use the online tools to help increase their comfort level and another idea would be to find out what each student’s individual learning style is through testing or other activities (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

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

    Keisha

  5. Marta,

    Great post. You noted that Boettcher and Conrad (2010) recommend using only essential technology until the instructor becomes more comfortable with practice teaching online. I am not a big fan of using anymore technology than necessary under any circumstance. As Lisa noted: “Keep it simple.” More technology usually leads to more confusion on the part of the learner, and also offers more opportunity for things to go wrong.

    It is interesting that you mentioned that instructors to be sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of their students. One of the most important points that Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) made in this weeks video was the need to give students the opportunity to be anonymous. I myself maintained a great deal of anonymity during my time at Walden. Until recently, had not shared my religious and cultural background with anyone other than one instructor. Then I only shared, because I thought that I was going to miss some deadlines. I had a couple of reasons. For one I did not want to appear to be making excuses. I also feared discrimination. I have begun to open up more now that I have earned my degree. I also realized that my choice of employers is going to be impacted by my belief system so there was no sense in pretending to be “normal.”

    Thanks,

    marc

    References

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

    Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.). Online Communities. Presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved September 1, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/
    portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D.

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