The preparation for the online learning experience is similar to the preparation for the face-to-face environment; the main difference is “more planning must be done before students arrive at the course site” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 56).
The Technology Available:
To be able to create an effective learning experience which challenges and engages students, instructor should utilize the technology tools available to them (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) through their institution and online. For example, the learning management system could be used to facilitate the discussions among students; online discussions create meaningful and social environments, which promotes students’ interactions (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).
Additionally, at the beginning of online courses, the instructors are encouraged to create welcoming and safe environment, which promote students’ openness. For this first step, instructors could post personal introductions about themselves to present the human aspect of their life (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Moreover, instructors may choose to put a picture, audio message or a video (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Technology could facilitate these activities; however, technology could be a barrier to effective online communication. For this reason, Conrad and Donaldson (2011) explained that instructors are encouraged to use and understand the technology tools available to them and provide introductory interactions that could “break the ice of using technology” (p. 52). Since there are many tools available online, instructors could select one to three technology tools which could be used to support the subject area and the learning outcomes (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Once the instructors select the proper tools then they could help students by building the needed skills to use these tools (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).
Communicating Clear Expectations:
In the online learning environment, students come to the course, and they want to be successful (The George Washington University, n.d.). Without support, or a welcoming and safe environment students could drop from the course as early as the first week (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). The syllabus provides a clear road map for students about the goals of the course, the important dates, activities and assignments (The George Washington University, n.d.). In addition, online learning environment provides “policies, procedures, and the mechanics about how to communicate and learn in an online environment” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 72). Students have many responsibilities related to their work and family; they need to plan ahead for the upcoming projects, assignments and the associated workload (The George Washington University, n.d.). This aspect is very important for me as a student; as I am an adult learner with work and family responsibilities, it is important for me to know the expectation, the dates and plans for the course so I could plan my other responsibilities accordingly.
The other additional considerations that instructors could plan for when designing and implementing an online learning experience are: building personal connections with students (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.), establishing a weekly rhythm for the course which sustain students’ engagement with the content (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), and developing effective discussion questions that could support the growth of the online learning community (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).
Finally, through effective planning, instructors could build a safe and inviting environment for students from the beginning of the course. This presence continues during the course through providing clear expectations and road map for students to help them navigate through the online experience. Ice breakers, weekly plans, and effective discussion boards are all effective strategies that could promote students enjoyment and success in the online learning experience.
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.
Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Launching the online learning experience [Video podcast]. Available from Walden University.
The George Washington University. Establishing expectations. Retrieved from http://learn.gwumc.edu/hscidist/FRED/EstablishingExpectations/index.htm
[Untitled Image of Computer Monitors Shaking ]. Retrieved from March 21, 2013 from http://aspanational.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/the-impact-of-technology-on-the-federal-government/