Essential Steps for Effective Online Learning
There are many essential steps for setting up effective online learning experiences for adult learners however, the ones I feel are most essential are, creating social presence, providing students with a course syllabus, and prepare discussion posts that will invite learners to reflect on their experiences.
Boettcher and Conrad (2010) stated, “One of the best ways to start an online course on the right foot is to focus on social presence activities for both learners and faculty…(so everyone will) know each other as three-dimensional people” (p. 51). Students need to know that his or her instructor and classmates, are ‘real’ people. One way to develop social presence is by sending a welcome email to learners before the course starts. Another way is by communicating with students weekly by sending an email. The email doesn’t have to be long, you can state something about the current week’s lesson, or just to say you are checking in or just to give class updates. Another way to develop social presence is through an icebreaker activity. Conrad and Donaldson (2011) stated, “An icebreaker should not require anything more than the ability to express knowledge of self” (p. 46).
Providing a course syllabus is extremely important. The online syllabus sets out the overall course plan with performance goals, learning outcomes, and requirements (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 64). Students need to know the class and campus policies, your expectations of them as online learners, and any other “boilerplate information on library access, technical support, and contact information for noncourse-specific questions (p. 64). The welcoming email is a perfect opportunity to give students a glimpse of the syllabus before the start of the course.
Clear Expectations are Important!
In an online class, it is important for the instructor to communicate clear expectations to learners. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) stated, “Clear…guidelines about what is expected of learners and what they should expect from an instructor make a significant contribution to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course” (p. 55). Students want to succeed and as instructors, we want our students to succeed. One way to help our students reach their goals is to clearly and thoroughly explain what we expect of our students in their online class. Clarifying how the course will work and sometimes might not work can help create a smooth and trusting learning environment (p. 55).
Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. (2011). Online icebreakers. Engaging the online learner: Activites and resources for creative instruction (pp. 46-59). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). Phase one: What’s happening, themes, and tools: Starting off on the right foot in course beginnings. The online teaching survival guide (pp. 49-61). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). Phase one: Tips for course beginnings. The online teaching survival guide (pp. 49-61). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.